Scientists are starting to understand the seasons have a subtle effect on how our brains work. A new study shows this is especially true for dementia patients.
Researchers analyzed cognitive tests from a group of more than 3,000 older adults in the U.S., Canada and France. They also investigated how proteins in their brain and spinal fluids changed over the course of the year, and whether those changes affected their cognition.
They found in winter and spring, specifically January to June, cognitive impairment or dementia symptoms worsened, compared to the summer and fall months of July through December. Participants also had shorter attention spans and poorer memory and reasoning skills in the winter and spring.
Scientists are still trying to learn what exactly causes symptoms to get worse seasonally. Earlier studies looking for a connection between seasons and dementia couldn't find one.
This latest study isn't perfect either. While researchers did control their findings to account for the effects of depression or different amounts of sleep or exercise, they only collected data from their participants once a year — and only from people in temperate climates in the Northern Hemisphere.
This research could help make people's lives easier — both in the future as we learn more about dementia, and right now. Doctors say it might be useful to make more resources available for dementia patients during the winter and spring months.