Larger head size may protect against Alzheimer's symptoms

July 12, 2010

New research shows that people with Alzheimer's disease who have large heads have better memory and thinking skills than those with the disease who have smaller heads, even when they have the same amount of brain cell death due to the disease. The research is published in the July 13, 2010, issue of Neurology.

"These results add weight to the theory of brain reserve, or the individual capacity to withstand changes in the brain," said study author Robert Perneczky, MD, of the Technical University of Munich in Germany. "Our findings also underline the importance of optimal brain development early in life, since the brain reaches 93 percent of its final size at age six."

Head size is one way to measure brain reserve and brain growth. Perneczky said that while brain growth is determined in part by genetics, it is also influenced by nutrition, infections and inflammations of the , and brain injuries.

"Improving prenatal and early life conditions could significantly increase brain reserve, which could have an impact on the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease or the severity of symptoms of the disease," he said.

For the study, 270 people with Alzheimer's disease took tests of their and and had MRI scans of their brains to measure the amount of . Head size was determined by the circumference measurement.

The study showed that larger head size was associated with a greater performance on memory and thinking tests, even when there was an equivalent degree of brain cell death. Specifically, for every one percent of brain cell death, an additional centimeter of head size was associated with a six percent greater performance on the memory tests.

Explore further: Exercise may prevent brain shrinkage in early Alzheimer's disease

Related Stories

Education protects against pre-Alzheimer's memory loss

October 20, 2008

ST. PAUL, Minn. – People with more education and more mentally demanding occupations may have protection against the memory loss that precedes Alzheimer's disease, according to a study published in the October 21, 2008, ...

Formal education lessens the impact of Alzheimer's disease

August 11, 2009

Researchers at the Department of Psychiatry, Klinikum rechts der Isar, Technische Universität München, investigated the effects of formal education on the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. They were able to show that ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

( -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.