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Approved research

The Effects of Cumulative Life Stress on the Brain and Cognition During Healthy Ageing

Principal Investigator: Miss Elizabeth McManus
Approved Research ID: 49224
Approval date: August 30th 2019

Lay summary

High levels of stress is one of the most common causes of job burn out and loss and is also commonly linked to several health conditions including stroke and heart disease. Stress has previously been reported to accelerate the rate of ageing in the brain, leading to premature deficits in cognitive abilities such as memory. This project aims to explore the effects of stress across the lifespan on two different domains: changes in the brain and changes in cognitive abilities. Four populations will be compared on these measures: 1. Middle aged adults with low lifetime stress 2. Middle aged adults with high lifetime stress 3. Older adults with low lifetime stress 4. Older adults with high lifetime stress. The four groups will be compared to assess the interacting effects of ageing and stress, on the brain's structure and connectivity. Scores from memory tasks completed by all groups will then also be compared to establish if changes in the brain relate to changes in memory. The findings of this research could help develop a better understanding of the detrimental effects of high lifetime stress as we age. Stress is a highly relevant social health and wellbeing issue, therefore a greater understanding of the effects of stress on the brain could inform future interventions to prevent premature cognitive decline in those who experience high levels of stress.