Inflammation is known as a part of the body’s natural immune response to tissue damage. Well, chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is presumed to pave way for a number of ailments including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. In a major breakthrough, investigators from the University of California, San Francisco found that high levels of a protein associated with chronic, low-grade inflammation in the brain is involved in memory decline.
During the study, a total of 76 women and men with a mean age of 71.8 years with detectible levels of CRP in their blood and 65 people in an average age group of 70.8 with undetectable levels were assessed. All the study subjects received a 16-word list learning task to measure verbal recall. Volunteers also underwent MRI to measure volumes of regions of the medial temporal lobes, particularly the hippocampus, entorhinal cortex and parahippocampal cortex.
Those with measureable levels of C reactive protein apparently recalled fewer words and had smaller medial temporal lobes. Currently the health world is unable to gauge whether inflammation indicated by the C reactive protein is the cause of the memory loss. Joel H. Kramer, PsyD, UCSF clinical professor of neuropsychology and the director of the neuropsychology program at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center and colleagues will be initiating further investigations to analyze the participants until the end of their lives and to use additional inflammatory markers.
The study was reported in a poster session at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting on April 13, 2011.