Researchers have found intriguing evidence that career choice may influence where a devastating type of dementia takes root in the brain in an international study.
The study was led by Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute in collaboration with the Memory and Aging Centre at the University of California, San Francisco and several U.S. and European clinical sites. It appears online today in the Article in Press section of the journal Neuropsychologia
, ahead of publication.
Researchers conducted a multi-centre, retrospective chart review of brain imaging and occupation data from 588 patients diagnosed with frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), sometimes referred to as frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Among the dementias affecting those 65 years and younger, FTLD is as common as Alzheimer's disease. Like Alzheimer's, it is progressive and fatal. Unlike Alzheimer's, which tends to affect both sides of the brain equally, FTLD often manifests on either the left or the right side of the brain, then becomes more widespread as the disease progresses. Typical symptoms include changes in personality and behaviour, and a decline in language skills.
For this study, each patient's occupation was rated with scores derived from an occupation database published by the U.S. Department of Labor. The scores indicated the skills required for the occupation, including verbal, physical and visuospatial skills. For example, a school principal would receive a higher rating for verbal skills than for visuospatial skills, whereas a flight engineer would show the opposite pattern. Both of these professions would score lower on physical skills than a firefighter.