It may be early days yet, but research seems to say that having purpose in life as defined by the researchers, helps a person to fight the effects of dementia, a disease which takes away memory and cognitive power of aging people. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is one of the most serious forms of Dementia.

In a new study, Patricia Boyle, an associate professor at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and others say “Somehow, having a purpose allows people to cope with the physical signs of Alzheimer’s disease,”

The study does not establish a link between the €˜Purpose’ and €˜Dementia’ but finds that the people who had “purpose in life” appeared to be less affected cognitively by the brain clogging due to plaques and tangles which cause dementia.

In the study, tests were given to 246 old people who later died and were put under autopsies to assess the condition of their brains and the researchers examined the test results

The study team defined  purpose in life as ” the tendency to find meaning from life experience, to be intentional and focused , It’s an indicator of well-being, that life is good and you are contributing to your life, you’re making decisions.” The definition was arrived at by analysing the answers to a ten item psychological test.

It was seen that among people who had similar amount of plaques and tangles in the brain, those who had greater “purpose in life”, appeared to be less affected by the observed physical decline of the brain. As per the researchers “The rate of cognitive decline was about 30 percent slower for someone with greater purpose in life, compared to someone with less purpose,”

In their findings, the study team could adjust for other variables like people with illnesses, signs of depression and others and saw a link between a higher sense of purpose and better brain health with better cognitive power and memory.

As per Dr. James Burke, Director of the Memory Disorders Clinic at Duke University Medical Center   It’s still not clear that purpose in life has anything to do with mental powers in old age. But if there is a connection, it may have something to do with the brain’s capacity.

For people with same amount of brain clogging due the plaques and tangles, those who had more education, appeared to use their brain power better than those with less education. Dr, Burke said “My own analogy is that if a city has more roads, it can tolerate more blocked roads while still allowing you to get to your destination. This is commonly used as the explanation, but difficult to prove.”

The study is published in the May issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

In another small new study on Alzheimer’s disease, it appears that deep brain stimulation in which brain is subjected to electronic pulse from a pacemaker like device implanted in chest – a treatment under test to treat mental problems – seems to help the brain work more efficiently in people who appear to have a mild form of the disease. (The disease can’t be conclusively diagnosed until after death.)

In this study four men and one woman underwent the treatment for a year and were examined by the researchers Gwenn Smith of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and colleagues.

The study was very small and was published online on May 7 in the Archives of Neurology and is considered by Dr Burke who was not involved in the research, as “a very early look” at a new kind of treatment.

[Source: This write up is sourced from the article “Purpose in Life’ May Help Shield You from Dementia” by Randy Dotinga, HealthDay Reporter dated May07, 2012]