Does getting a cold often increase your risk for dementia? 

Getting sick often may impact how quickly the brain ages and increase the risk of dementia or other forms of cognitive decline.

These are the findings of a Tulane University study conducted in partnership with West Virginia University and the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health and published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity. The study examined aging male mice and found that repeated, intermittent experiences with moderate inflammation, such as that caused by the flu or a seasonal head cold, caused impaired cognition and disrupted communication between neurons in those mice.

Photo by Yaroslav Shuraev on

“We were interested in asking whether differences in infection experience could account, at least in part, for the differences in rates of dementia we see in the population,” said lead author Elizabeth Engler-Chiurazzi, PhD, a behavioral neuroscientist in the Tulane Department of Neurosurgery. “The mice we were studying were adults approaching middle age that had intact faculties, and yet, when exposed to intermittent inflammation, they remembered less and their neurons functioned more poorly.”

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