In a new study from the Florida State University, researchers found that the personality trait neuroticism is consistently associated with a higher risk of developing the brain disorder Parkinson’s disease.
They found that adults in the study who scored in the top quartile of neuroticism had more than 80% greater risk of Parkinson’s, compared to those who scored lower on neuroticism.
The findings suggest that some emotional vulnerability is present early in life, years before the development of Parkinson’s disease.
The effects were similar for women and men and across socioeconomic strata.
Globally, an estimated six million people suffer from Parkinson’s disease—about 1% of all older adults—making it the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s.
Parkinson’s is a long-term degenerative brain disorder that causes a progressive decline of motor and physical functions.
As the disease progresses, nerve cell damage in the brain causes dopamine levels to drop, leading to symptoms such as tremors, slow movement, stiffness and loss of balance.
Dopamine is known as a “feel-good” hormone involved in reward, motivation, memory and attention in addition to regulating body movements.
The causes of Parkinson’s disease are not well understood, but scientists believe genetic and environmental factors contribute to its onset.
Neuroticism is a personality trait that measures individual differences in the tendency to experience negative emotions, vulnerability to stress, inability to resist urges and self-consciousness.
Neuroticism has been linked to mood disorders and Alzheimer’s, but there have been fewer studies on its prospective connection with Parkinson’s.
The team examined nearly a half-million individuals ages 40-69 between 2006 and 2010, and collected data obtained over nearly 12 years of follow-up.
The team found anxiety and depression are comorbid with Parkinson’s disease. Many people with Parkinson’s tend to be anxious or tend to get depressed.
Part of that could be due to the disease and how it alters the brain and can have an influence on emotions. The part could be a psychological reaction to having a diagnosis of the disease.
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The study is published in Movement Disorders. One author of the study is Professor of Geriatrics Antonio Terracciano.
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