Human agency vs. brain dysfunction

This 2021 human study used epigenetic clock technology to assess chronic inflammation as a driver of cognitive decline through its effects on brain structure:

“An epigenetic measure of C-reactive protein (DNAm CRP) was assembled for each participant. We found that higher inflammatory burden, indexed by DNAm CRP scores, associated with poor cognitive and neuroimaging brain health outcomes.

inflammation vs cognitive ability

DNAm CRP exhibited significantly larger associations with brain structural MRI metrics (including global grey and white matter atrophy, poorer white matter microstructure, and increased white matter hyperintensity burden) than serum CRP. Given that the 7 CpGs which make up DNAm CRP score reside in inflammation and vascular-related genes, these DNAm CRP-brain MRI associations may be capturing the impact of upstream inflammatory activity above and beyond that of serum CRP levels.

Our results indicate that some cognitive domains (processing speed) may be more mediated by brain structural consequences of chronic inflammation than others (verbal memory, visuospatial ability).

Our results add to the evidence base that DNAm-based predictors of inflammation may act as a quantifiable archive of longitudinal effects of these exposures – and other unaccounted for health and genetic profiles – that serum CRP levels fail to capture. By utilising an epigenetic inflammation measure, which integrates information from multiple immune-related CpG sites, we may provide a more reliable measure of chronic inflammation and thus a more comprehensive overview of consequences of chronic inflammation on brain structure and function.” “DNA Methylation and Protein Markers of Chronic Inflammation and Their Associations With Brain and Cognitive Aging”

These researchers essentially negated many of their findings by acknowledging:

“Although we endeavoured to remove participants with cognition-related pathology, these were screened via self-reported diagnoses, and we may be missing undiagnosed or subclinical incident neurodegenerative pathology.”

It wasn’t sufficient to claim in the Abstract section “Participants (N = 521) were cognitively normal, around 73 years of age” then include in the Discussion section a one-sentence limitation of relying on self-reports. Everyone defends themself against current and past realities and experiences.

Hard to imagine that objective measures such as the three comprising cognitive ability weren’t better screens. But then too many 73-year-old subjects may not have been “cognitively normal” and this study wouldn’t be adequately powered?

Can humans counteract inflammation? Non-communicable diseases? Smoking? Immune system degradation? Yes. No personal-agency actions were mentioned.

Also note this study’s social norming. The above-pictured 30-year-old female was busy at work, and subsequently hoisted a cat instead of a child in later years.

Take responsibility for your own one precious life.


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