Are we cognitively sharper at certain times of the year, and less sharp at other times? This study says “yes.” Here’s what scientists have discovered about the seasonality of cognition, and what it might mean for someone with mild cognitive impairment.
How about you? Do you fare cognitively better during the summer, or worse during the winter? Leave a comment, or send me an email at email@example.com
Here’s the full transcript of today’s video
For everything, there is a season. You’ve heard that, right?
For some reason, I thought that was Shakespeare, so I had to look it up, to remind myself it’s from the Bible. Ecclesiastes.
The reason that I bring that up today is because just as there’s a season for everything else under the sun, there is a seasonality to cognition. And some seasons are better than others.
It turns out that at certain times of the year, cognition can improve or get worse, and that’s true of all older adults, regardless of whether they have normal age-related cognitive decline or mild cognitive impairment for even dementia. And it may be true of you.
Hi, I’m Tony Dearing of GoCogno.com, the website for mild cognitive impairment.
There was a study that came out last fall, and I have been meaning to do a video about it, but I’ve just never gotten around to it. Until now. And now is actually a good time, because there’s a seasonality to it, and this is the peak season.
What researchers in Toronto wanted to know is, are there times of year when people’s cognitive performance tends to be better or worse. It turns out there are, and these seasonal fluctuations in cognition proved to be far greater than expected.
Here’s what you need to know about the study:
Researchers looked at data involving more than 3,000 older adults enrolled in three different studies in the United States, Canada, and France.
All of the people involved had neuropsychological testing and some were also tested for genes associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
What they found was for these thousands of adults, whether they had cognitive impairment or not, they showed better cognitive skills in the late summer and early fall than in the winter and spring.
In fact, the seasonal difference was significant, the equivalent of 4.8 years of age-related cognitive decline.
What’s more, they found that the odds of a person meeting the clinical criteria for MCI were more than 30 percent higher in the winter and spring that in the last summer and early fall.
So seasonally speaking, this is the time of year when you may be at your cognitive best. Whereas in March and April, the opposite may be true.
This study doesn’t explain why that might be the case. But Dr. Andrew Lim, the lead researcher, has some theories.
He suggests that more light and warmer temperatures may boost cognition. And that’s interesting, because there may be treatments like phototherapy or temperature modification that could help compensate for that in the winter months.
He also notes that summer is a time when we tend to get more exercise, sleep better and eat a healthier diet.
In addition, Lim points out that we are more prone to seasonal depressive disorder in the winter, and perhaps that takes a toll not just on our mood, but on our cognition.
One of my goals with these videos, always, is to tell you something new, that you haven’t already heard a hundred times. This is new and important and interesting, and over time it’s actually probably going to bring some changes to the way that cognitive impairment is diagnosed and treated.
The better you understand what’s going on with you, the better equipped you are to deal with it. It could be something as basic as travel. If you are someone who finds you are cognitively better at certain times of the year, you might plan a trip for late August or early September rather than in February. Things like that.
So how about you? Do you notice any seasonal swings in your cognition? Let me know. Leave a comment, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope to hear from you and I look forward to seeing you again next week. Until then, as always, be kind to mind.
See an abstract of the study here: https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1002647