The University of Montreal
and of memory
W hen Sylvie Belleville first became interested in Alzheimer’s disease, 30 years ago, no one knew that it began with a very lengthy silent stage. The age-related neurodegenerative disease is defined by an abnormal accumulation of proteins in the brain and a loss of neurons, which can cause serious cognitive impairment. Her research has helped make it possible to diagnose the disease before the symptoms of dementia appear. And even better, it may be possible to slow its onset.
The researcher and her team have created a training program to stimulate brain plasticity to help elderly people coping with mild cognitive impairment develop memory-boosting strategies.
But is it really possible to “protect” oneself? Perhaps. And Professor Belleville has also contributed to this huge advance, the finding that a healthy lifestyle may help protect the brain. In other words, what is good for the heart is also good for the brain. Along with a cognitively stimulating lifestyle, other factors have a positive impact on the brain:
- eating a balanced diet
- limiting vascular risk factors
- remaining physically active
- learning and getting intellectual stimulation
So it is never too late to prevent cognitive decline.
Sylvie Belleville is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at the Université de Montréal and a researcher at the Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal. She also directs the Consortium pour l’identification précoce de la maladie d’Alzheimer (CIMA-Q), bringing together 90 researchers from several Quebec universities and research centres, as part of a cross-Canada study to identify early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. More than 300 people who complain of very slight problems are being monitored to see who will develop this disease.