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AAIC 2021 | Contextual disadvantage as a major independent factor in brain health disparities

Contextual factors have been shown to play a significant role in health disparities. Amy Kind, MD, PhD, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, describes studies showing that the context individuals live in exerts effects on brain health and disease. Using biometrics such as neuroimaging studies and biomarkers, individuals from highly disadvantaged neighborhoods were compared with individuals from advantaged neighborhoods. Volume and robustness of an individual’s hippocampus was linked with how disadvantaged their neighborhood was. Results from longer-term longitudinal studies suggest that brain health, size, and its corresponding functional ability decrease more quickly over a 10-year period in individuals from highly disadvantaged neighborhoods compared with counterparts living in more advantaged contexts. Brain tissue studies also showed that individuals in more disadvantaged neighborhoods were found to have higher burdens of amyloid plaques and tau tangles near death. Prof. Kind continues to say that this contextual influence has an effect independent of other individual characteristics, such as socioeconomic situation. This interview took place during the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC), 2021.