A Boston-based research team that included a Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researcher conducted a formal bias analysis that lends support to the potential role for late-in-life cognitive activity in preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
The study, in the September issue of the journal Epidemiology, was led by researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital’s department of psychiatry and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Dr. Jennifer Weuve, a BUSPH research associate of epidemiology and co-director of the AlzRisk database, was a co-author.
The research team analyzed 12 peer-reviewed epidemiologic studies that examined the relationship between late-in-life cognitive activities and the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. The studies, selected on the basis of pre-specified criteria for the AlzRisk database, included almost 14,000 individual participants and consistently showed a benefit, sometimes substantial, for cognitive activity.
The analysis indicated that bias due to unmeasured factors was unlikely to account for all of the association, because the impact of such factors is likely to be considerably smaller than the observed effect.
“Ultimately, clinical trials with long-term follow-up are the surest way to definitively address reverse causation,” Dr. Weuve said. “Trials could also confront the vexing question of whether training to improve specific cognitive skills has benefits that extend into everyday functions.”
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