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