School of public health

School Notes: School of Public Health
July/August 2023

Megan L. Ranney |

Positive beliefs linked to cognitive recovery

A Yale School of Public Health study has found that older persons with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a common type of memory loss, were 30 percent more likely to regain normal cognition if they had positive beliefs about aging, compared to those who had negative beliefs. Researchers also found that these positive beliefs enabled participants to recover their cognition up to two years earlier than those with negative age beliefs. This cognitive recovery advantage was found regardless of baseline MCI severity.

“Most people assume there is no recovery from MCI, but in fact half of those who have it do recover,” said Professor Becca Levy, the study’s lead author. “Little is known about why some recover while others don’t. That’s why we looked at positive age beliefs, to see if they would help provide an answer.” 

Higher lithium levels in drinking water may raise autism risk

Pregnant women whose household tap water had higher levels of lithium had a moderately higher risk of their offspring being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, according to a new study led by researchers at the Yale School of Public Health and UCLA Health. The study is believed to be the first to identify naturally occurring lithium in drinking water as a possible environmental risk factor for autism. The researchers note that the exact cause of autism spectrum disorder remains unclear, and their findings only show a possible association between lithium exposure and autism diagnosis. The study did not conclude that lithium exposure in tap water is a direct cause of autism disorder. “Any drinking water contaminants that may affect fetal development require intense scrutiny,” said assistant professor Zeyan Liew, the study’s first author. “Currently, lithium levels in drinking water are not routinely monitored.”   

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