Neurological Reserve

Living With A Compromised Neurological Reserve

Metabolic stress is not a friend to the very young, elderly, or those who’ve been dealing with superficial siderosis for awhile. If you’re healthy, enjoy a great immune system, exercise body and mind you easily bounce back after an infection or surgery. Your brain’s capacity to handle metabolic stress and adapt to a disease affecting the brain is referred to as neurological reserve. Often, superficial siderosis patients who’ve been fighting a steady progression of their condition also discover they’re now living with a compromised neurological reserve on a perpetual basis.¹  

When the bounce-back forgets to bounce

Neurological reserve refers to two groupings, cognitive reserve, and brain reserve. The level of cognitive reserve a person has prior to becoming symptomatic may explain why there is a difference in the progression speed and severity of superficial siderosis based cognitive decline. As the degenerative brain changes occur, people with a higher cognitive reserve are able to adapt better and hold off symptoms longer. When the cognitive reserve is compromised the software of your brain begins to glitch and you may struggle with short term memory loss or coping with daily tasks.

In the late 1980s, researchers found patients with levels of cognitive reserve high enough to remain asymptomatic and function normally even though autopsy found physical evidence of brain changes consistent with advanced Alzheimer’s disease.²  

Brain reserve describes the brains’ resilience as an organ to cope with the physical aspects of increased neurodegeneration while still being able to function. Some superficial siderosis patients experience cerebellar atrophy which brings symptoms associated with ataxia. As brain reserve is depleted you may find if you’re exposed to stress, surgery, or environmental toxins your symptoms become intensified. It takes longer to fight off an infection or recuperate from an illness. Another example is superficial siderosis patients going under for surgery will need longer to recover from the effects of anesthesia. 

Help your brain

Healthy lifestyle changes have shown to help increase and maintain a person’s neurological reserve in the very early stages of neurodegeneration.³ Suggestions include:

  1. Mediterranean-style diet
  2. Physical activity or physical therapy
  3. Intelectual or mentally challenging leisure activities
  4. Social Activity involving interaction with others

Superficial siderosis patients in the early stages of progression should consider discussing with their doctor how to best positively impact their neurological reserve. Patients in the later stages of superficial siderosis symptom progression who need longer recuperation time should plan prior to medical procedures for the help they will need.

¹Superficial Siderosis Webinar M.Levy MD, Ph.D


³Clare, Linda; Wu, Yu-Tzu; Teale, Julia C.; MacLeod, Catherine; Matthews, Fiona; Brayne, Carol; Woods, Bob (2017-03-21). “Potentially modifiable lifestyle factors, cognitive reserve, and cognitive function in later life: A cross-sectional study”. PLOS Medicine. 14 (3): e1002259. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1002259. ISSN 1549-1676. PMC 5360216. PMID 28323829.

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Rori Daniel

Living With Superficial Siderosis began as a way to keep family and acquaintances updated after my husband Gary was diagnosed with Superficial siderosis in 2014. In 2019, became a partner in the Superficial Siderosis Research Alliance. Together our alliance has expanded into research, advocacy, and patient education. Rori Daniel, Editor,

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