Israeli Alzheimer’s study links altruism with first signs of disease

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Israeli Alzheimer’s study links altruism with first signs of disease

Researchers at Bar Ilan University found an association between giving money away and early onset

Old retired men playing chess at the Jardins du Luxembourg, Paris
Old retired men playing chess at the Jardins du Luxembourg, Paris

Israeli scientists have shown that an older person’s willingness to give money away could be linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers found that giving away more money was associated with worse cognitive performances on tests of word list learning and recall, delayed story recall, and naming words belonging to a specific category.

The study is important because people with early onset Alzheimer’s are particularly vulnerable to financial exploitation, with instances of life savings being handed over before the incurable neurological condition has been diagnosed.

This week’s findings comes after work at the University of Southern California and Bar-Ilan University looking into the relationship between altruism and cognitive functioning in a sample of older adults without dementia.

Those who chose to give more of their study earnings away to an anonymous person demonstrated poorer performance on cognitive measures that are known to be sensitive to early Alzheimer’s disease.

“Altruism plays an important role in financial decision making, a function critical for preventing financial exploitation,” said Dr Gali Weissberger, who co-led the study.

“A growing body of literature suggests that declines in financial decision making in older adulthood may be an early sign of adverse cognitive outcomes associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The findings of this study provide insights into how some adults may become vulnerable to financial exploitation in older age.”

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