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The herpes virus and your mental health

1:08 PM, Dec 12, 2013   |    comments
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(WZZM) - The viruses that cause cold sores when you're stressed could have more of an impact on our mental health than we thought.

Researchers at the University of Michigan looked at the link between two strains of the herpes virus and cognitive impairment. Cognitive impairment includes things like problems with memory, language or thinking and judgement.

Researchers found that in children between 12 and 16 year old, the Herpes Simplex One virus (HSV-1) is associated with lower reading and spacial reasoning skills. The same virus also impacts visual motor speed and attention among middle aged adults and memory problems in older people. Another strain of herpes, called CMV, also seems to impact learning and recall in middle aged adults.

"This really is the first study that shows that there may be an effect among healthy individuals and that it may be detrimental for cognition," said Kara Tarter, first author of the University of Michigan study. "So we really need more studies to confirm or support these findings before we can really recommend anything."

Nearly a third of the population in the United States is exposed to the herpes virus by the time they are 12 years old.

Stress is one of the triggers to activate the virus. While there is no vaccine for herpes, researchers at the University of Michigan think this research may lead to a new focus on trying to find one.

"A vaccine could potentially prevent an infection altogether." said Tarter. "Treatment options such as antivirals could also be used to prevent reactivation, help the immune system control these viruses, and prevent cognitive impairment and potentially improve cognition among individuals who are infected."

Previous research has shown herpes viruses are associated with Alzheimer's Disease and dementia. The viruses can invade the central nervous system, but more research is needed to figure out exactly how the viruses can cause these mental issues.

To learn more about the study, click here.

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