'Silent strokes' linked to memory loss

Dec. 29, 2011 at 12:09 AM
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NEW YORK, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- About 1-in-4 older adults with memory loss has had a so-called silent stroke -- a small spot of dead brain cells, U.S. researchers said.

Study author Adam M. Brickman of the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer's Disease and the Aging Brain at Columbia University Medical Center in New York said the study involved a group of 658 people age 65 and older, free of dementia who were given magnetic resonance imaging brain scans.

Participants underwent tests that measured their memory, language, speed at processing information and visual perception. A total of 174 of the participants had silent strokes.

The study, published in the January issue of Neurology, found people with silent strokes scored somewhat worse than those without silent strokes on memory tests. This was true regardless of whether people had a small hippocampus -- the memory center of the brain -- the study said.

"Given that conditions like Alzheimer's disease are defined mainly by memory problems, our results may lead to further insight into what causes symptoms and the development of new interventions for prevention," Brickman said in a statement. "Since silent strokes and the volume of the hippocampus appeared to be associated with memory loss separately in our study, our results also support stroke prevention as a means for staving off memory problems."

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