Depression and anxiety have long been considered risk factors for cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s Disease. A four-year study carried out by University College London identifies repetitive negative thinking (RNT) as the ultimate culprit.
Participants who engaged in RNT were found to exhibit significantly higher memory loss and cognitive decline than the rest, together with higher amyloid and tau levels in the brain – another early warning sign of Alzheimer’s onset.
The underlying mechanism seems to be inflammation, often a side effect of anxiety and depression, together with shrinking of the hippocampus caused by chronic stress (the hippocampus regulates learning and memory).
What can we do about it? The researchers themselves point to mindfulness to take the reins of our own thinking. Mindfulness promotes cognitive defusion – the non-identification with thoughts, seeing them for what they are, as opposed to indisputable facts.
You can read the study here: https://alz-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/alz.12116