Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Monday 25 October |
Saint of the Day: Sts Gavin, Protus, and Januarius
Aleteia logo
home iconLifestyle
line break icon

How 600 nuns are helping to cure Alzheimer’s

NUNS

CNN

Cerith Gardiner - published on 02/27/18

Their dedication to the study has allowed scientists to find crucial links to maintaining a healthy brain.

Thirty years ago, 600 nuns, all aged 75 years or over, embarked on a scientific study to help researchers learn more about the aging process — in particular, Alzheimer’s. The sisters are members of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, Mankato, Minnesota, originally founded in 1865 as a teaching order is whose mission is to “pray, learn, and educate,” so in donating their brains in the name of science, the religious believed they could continue to serve, even in death.

With an aging population there are more and more cases of Alzheimer’s reported, with over 44 million sufferers worldwide, and still no cure. So scientists looked to the sample of nuns because their similar lifestyle — food consumption, being unmarried, similar backgrounds — would make them the perfect participants, allowing significant comparisons and conclusions to be drawn.

In the video from CNN, Dr Sanjay Gupta talks with Sister Rita Schwalbe about the experiment. She shared that when the nuns were asked to participate they were more than willing, with one nun pointing out: “What good is it going to do me when my brain is 6 feet under?”

By examining the brains of the 600 sisters, the scientists found physical differences in the brains of those with dementia and those with a healthy brain. However, the order was also able to help the study even further thanks to a single task: when entering the order each nun had to write a biography, and this was continued throughout her life.

Interestingly, scientists could extrapolate from these personal essays a correlation between “grammatical complexity and idea density” and dementia. The more sophisticated the grammar and ideas, the less likely the nun was to develop dementia. The findings could prove vital for our long-term mental health: as Sr. Schwalbe mentions, simple actions like encouraging children to enrich their vocabulary could play a key part in their future quality of life.


BLOOD,TRANSFUSION,DONATION

Read more:
“Young blood” may help those with Alzheimer’s disease

Tags:
Science
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
Marinella Bandini
Exclusive: Carlo Acutis as seen by his mother
2
PADRE PIO
Philip Kosloski
Padre Pio replied to John Paul II’s letter with a miracle
3
VENERABLE SANDRA SABATTINI
Philip Kosloski
Meet Sandra Sabattini, a newly beatified 22-year-old
4
Theresa Civantos Barber
St. John Paul II’s perfect advice for lasting love in marriage
5
POPE JOHN PAUL II
Cerith Gardiner
A collection of Pope John Paul II’s quotes on some of life’s most...
6
WEB2-Bishop_Michael.jpg
John Burger
Once considered for top post in Anglican Church, former bishop be...
7
peace
Philip Kosloski
How kindness begins in your heart
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.