The Nun Study

The ‘Nun Study’ is a lon­git­ud­in­al study of age­ing and Alzheimer­’s that uses data gathered from over 600 nuns over the past 20+ years. Some inter­est­ing cor­rel­ates are start­ing to appear:

The nuns make for a very unique pop­u­la­tion to study […] because of their sim­il­ar life­styles.

“They don’t smoke, they don’t drink, so you can reduce the effects of some of these oth­er envir­on­ment­al factors, and focus in on oth­er factors that might be harder to get your hands around in oth­er pop­u­la­tion stud­ies.” […]

Among the study’s find­ings are a rela­tion­ship between early child­hood edu­ca­tion and redu­cing the sus­cept­ib­il­ity to Alzheimer’s dis­ease, [and] a rela­tion­ship between trau­mas to the brain, such as strokes, and an increased sus­cept­ib­il­ity to Alzheimer­’s. […]

Anoth­er inter­est­ing find­ing has been that some of the nuns brains look like they have Alzheimer­’s but the women wer­en’t exhib­it­ing symp­toms before they died.

“If that’s the case, there may be things you can do, even though you have the dis­ease to slow down or pre­vent the expres­sion of the dis­ease symp­toms”.

Read­ing this art­icle, I’m not sure what I enjoyed the most: learn­ing about this fas­cin­at­ing study, or the pic­ture of the neuro­path­o­lo­gist stand­ing in front of over 600 plastic con­tain­ers each hold­ing a nun­’s brain!

For more inform­a­tion on this study, Time wrote a com­pre­hens­ive art­icle back in 2001, and there’s a ded­ic­ated sec­tion on the Uni­ver­sity of Min­nesota’s site.

via @mocost