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Dementia progression 'determined by professional specialisation'

Dementia progression 'determined by professional specialisation'
23rd September 2010

Career choice may influence where dementia damage takes place in the brain, researchers have claimed.

Brain imaging and occupation data for 588 patients diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia were reviewed by scientists at the University of California, who found that declines of particular skills differed according to occupation.

Researchers found that the dementia attacked the side of the brain that was least used during professional life.

For example, patients in professions that rated highly for verbal skills such as school principals had greater tissue loss in the right side of their brain.

Commenting on the findings, lead researcher Dr Nathan Spreng suggested that the difference can be attributed to the specialisation of each side of the brain in relation to the requirement to use particular skills professionally.

Senior study author Dr Brian Levine added: "There may be an undetected functional impairment related to FTLD [frontotemporal lobar degeneration] in these patients that biases them toward a certain career path decades before they get sick."

Recent research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society indicated that the spouses of those with dementia have a six-fold increased risk of succumbing to the condition themselves.

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