Career May Affect Site of Dementia Onset

BOSTON, Sept. 23 (UPI) — A study of U.S., Canadian and European patients with a form of dementia suggests one’s career may influence where the disease begins in the brain.

The study — led by Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute in collaboration with the Memory and Aging Center at the University of California, San Francisco, and several U.S. and European clinical sites conducted — was a multi-center review of brain imaging and occupation data from 588 patients diagnosed with frontotemporal lobar degeneration, or frontotemporal dementia.

Dr. Nathan Spreng, who conducted the study while a psychology graduate student at Baycrest and is now a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, says this type of dementia often strikes in middle age and manifests on either the left or the right side of the brain, while Alzheimer’s tends to affect both sides of the brain equally.

“The disease appeared to attack the side of the brain that was the least used in the patient’s professional life,” Spreng says in a statement.

Patients who had jobs rated highly for verbal skills, such as a school principal or chief executive, showed greater tissue loss on the right side of the brain — which is not specialized for language or verbal skills. Patients with jobs rated lower for verbal skills, such as art director or flight engineer, showed greater atrophy on the left side of the brain.

Further research will be needed to determine how strong a predictor occupation may be for hemispheric localization of the disease, Spreng says.

The findings are published in the journal Neuropsychologia.

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