Snowdon - Findings from the Nun Study.docx

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Health Sciences
Health Sciences 2711A/B
Aleksandra Zecevic

Findings from the Nun Study – Snowdon Introduction • A study of aging and Alzheimer’s with school sisters of the Notre Dame congregation • Participants were 75-102 years of age at the beginning of the study, by the end the oldest lady was 107 • The three sources of data are as follows: o The covenant archive gives information on potential early life risk factors for Alzheimer’s o Annual examinations document changes in cognitive and physical functioning over time o Each sister agreed to donate their brain after they died • Because there were 678 sisters there was large variations b/w their health status, cognitive and physical functioning, and the presence of neuropathology or not Sister Matthia: A model of healthy aging • Sister Matthia became the “gold standard” for healthy aging in the Nun study, and somewhat of a celebrity • She even had her picture published in National Geographic, she was knitting a pair of mittens at the age of 103, she says she doesn’t like the picture because it makes her look old (what a boss) • 3 months before her death she was active, productive, happy and still knitting • She enjoyed more than 100 years of dementia-free life • According to the tests done on her brain she was in stage 4 Alzheimer’s (moderate spread of the disease) with only one small brain infarct Sister Agnes: A Mix of Neuropathology • Sister Agnes was a century baby, born in 1900 • Her first annual exam was done in the 1990s, at the time she was so cognitively and physically impaired that she could only communicate through the occasional smile and expression of an isolated word or two • Her brain revealed three infarcts and a stroke in the thalamus, and had a sufficient number of lesions (plaques in the brain) to qualify for Alzheimer’s o She was classified with mixed dementia • Of the others who died o 33.9% had mixed dementia o 43.2% had Alzheimer disease o 2.5% had vascular dementia o 20.4% had other causes of dementia Sister Marcella: A Low Degree of Neuropathology • On her third annual examination she did exceptional despite only having high school education • The other sisters said she was blessed with remarkable memory which enabled her to tell wonderful stories • Her brain was remarkable clean and large Sister Bernadette: Resistance to the Clinical Expression of Neuropathology • She earned her master’s degree and taught elementary school for 21 years, and high school for 7 years • She died of a heart attack at the age of 85 • Her brain revealed extens
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