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Family history of Alzheimer's could negatively affect consumers' memory

Family history of diabetes may also lead to decreased cognitive function

Photo (c) wildpixel - Getty Images
As researchers dive deeper into Alzheimer’s research, a recent study has revealed that learning can be affected by the degenerative disease. 

According to researchers, having a close relative with Alzheimer’s can impact how adults perform on online learning assessments. 

“Identifying factors that reduce or eliminate the effect of a family history of Alzheimer’s disease is particularly crucial since there is currently no cure or effective disease-slowing treatments,” said researcher Joshua Talboom, PhD. 

How is learning affected?

To get a better understanding of how Alzheimer’s can affect a whole family’s learning outcomes, the researchers had over 60,000 participants complete online learning assessments. The participants were asked to provide information on their family histories, including whether a close relative had Alzheimer’s, in addition to information on their own age, health, gender, and education. 

The online tests were geared to gauge participants’ memory function, as they memorized pairs of words; later, they had to complete the pairs with whichever word was missing. Overall, those who had a close relative with Alzheimer’s had poorer outcomes on the memorization tests than those who didn’t have the disease in the family. 

The study also revealed certain factors that contributed to participants’ scores on the memory tests. While diabetes in the family contributed to poorer scores on the assessments, female participants, and those who had higher levels of education, saw positive outcomes on the tests, despite having an increased risk of Alzheimer’s due to family connections. 

The researchers were pleased with these findings, as they shed light on different ways family ties can affect memory, and the countless ways Alzheimer’s and overall health can impact different generations. 

“Our study supports the importance of living a healthy lifestyle, properly treating diseases such as diabetes, and building learning and memory reserve through education to reduce the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease risk factors,” and researcher Matthew Huentelman. 

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