The link between chronic inflammation, neurodegenerative diseases, cognition, and memory loss

Chronic inflammation can play a significant role in memory loss. In fact, a latest research suggests that people who experience high chronic inflammation during midlife are more prone to memory loss in the following years of their lives.

While changes in cognition become more common in older age, research has demonstrated that certain cognitive abilities generally remain stable even in the stages of mild to moderate dementia (e.g., reading ability) while others tend to decline (e.g., memory, executive function, processing speed). Interestingly, studies have shown that interventions such as exercise and certain cognitive training programs may be helpful for decreasing cognitive losses and maintaining cognitive function, which implies that the capacity for plasticity in old age does not completely fade away.

Evidence suggests that neurogenesis in the hippocampus, the same area of the brain that shows the most degeneration in early-stage Alzheimer’s disease and is fundamental for new learning and memory consolidation, continues throughout older adulthood. Despite the potential for new learning and neuroplasticity, the aging brain typically manifests evidence of structural and functional changes; therefore, most of the older adults will experience some degree of cognitive decline over time. Furthermore, the line between “normal” and “abnormal” cognitive decline with age may be nebulous.

Schneider, Arvanitakis, Leurgans, and Bennett (2009) evaluated neuropathological substrates at autopsy of 483 older persons with diagnosed probable Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment, or no cognitive impairment. These researchers found that within the group of participants with no cognitive impairment, over 50% possessed one of three common neuropathologies: Alzheimer’s disease pathology, cerebrovascular pathology, or neocortical Lewy Bodies. These results suggest that many cognitively “healthy” older adults may nevertheless have some underlying pathologies related to chronic inflammation, blurring the line between studies purporting to examine “normal” versus disease-related cognitive changes with age.

Cytokines including the interleukins (abbreviated IL), interferons, tumor necrosis factors (TNF-α and TNF-β), and tumor growth factors are responsible for inflammation within the brain. Depending on the type, cytokines can be proinflammatory (e.g., IL-6, IL-1β, TNF-α) or anti-inflammatory (e.g., IL-4, IL-10, IL-13).

Hence, cytokines are able to self-regulate immune response by adjusting production as needed, and ideally a congruent balance of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines will exist to maintain optimal immune system function. Additionally, there are numerous other proteins that show either increased or decreased plasma concentrations as a result of inflammation, such as C-reactive protein (CRP), which is why some researchers use these factors as markers of underlying inflammatory processes. However, any issues with exaggerated inflammatory response will have a negative consequence that will lead to an attack on the memory cells within the brain.

if you or anyone you know is suffering from chronic inflammation, cognitive issues, and neurodegenerative diseases please contact Specialized Therapy Associates at 201-488-6678 or The Functional Medicine Center for Personalized Care, LLC ( at 201-880-8247 for our Integrative Mind-Body Health services which can greatly help you with holistic mind-body healing.


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Sartori AC, Vance DE, Slater LZ, Crowe M. The impact of inflammation on cognitive function in older adults: implications for healthcare practice and research. J Neurosci Nurs. 2012 Aug;44(4):206-17. doi: 10.1097/JNN.0b013e3182527690. PMID: 22743812; PMCID: PMC3390758.


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