Memory slips may be early signs of Alzheimer’s disease

Posted under Blog on July 25th, 2013 by Editorial Team / No Comments

Doctors who advise their aging patients not to worry about memory lapses may be doing them a disservice, according to a number of new studies that suggest these lapses may be the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

Four preliminary studies presented at the recent Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Boston show that a patient’s concerns about their memory or thinking skills may be early warning signs for dementia and Alzheimer’s.

In one of the studies, research presented by Dr Rebecca Amariglio, a neuropsychologist at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, found that people with more concerns about memory and organizing ability were more likely to have amyloid, a key Alzheimer’s-related protein, in their brains.

Alzheimer’s researchers have identified a new category called ‘subjective cognitive decline’, which describes people’s own sense that their memory and thinking skills are deteriorating, before others have noticed.

Experts have emphasized that many older people with such complaints will not develop dementia. Some memory decline is a normal part of aging and nothing to worry about.  Heather Snyder, director of medical and scientific operations for the Alzheimer’s Association, commented, “We’re not talking about those times you walk out of your house and realize you’ve forgotten your keys. We’re talking about cases where you identify a change over time – you’ve always been able to balance your checkbook with no problem, but now you’re having difficulty.”

Read more about the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease

Tags: dementia warning signs, Early Alzheimer's, Memory lapses

The benefits of art therapy

Posted under Blog on June 7th, 2013 by Editorial Team / No Comments

Looking at a piece of art work can sharpen concentration, revive long-forgotten memories, inspire creativity and invoke emotional responses. This response can also be noted in people with Alzheimer’s disease, allowing them to connect with loved ones in a non-verbal way and offering them an opportunity to express their feelings.

Groups such as The Hilgos Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports the on-going process of artistic creation for people with memory impairment, have done an excellent job in raising awareness of art therapy and showcasing its many benefits.  Many care homes across America and Western Europe have begun integrating art therapy into the daily routines of Alzheimer’s patients.  The introduction of the arts and other creative activities is now being recognised as a way of maintaining a higher quality of life for residents.

Through the creative arts, carers can engage patients and bypass some of the limitations of the disease. Whether it is painting, sketching, or clay modelling, art stimulates not only the eyes, but also the whole body. This interaction can encourage a person to reconnect with old memories and functions, allowing them to express their independence and identity.

Dr Sam Gandy, Associate Director at Mount Sinai Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center in NYC, encourages this new form of therapy: “There are parts of the brain that do not deteriorate until the condition is in its late stage, this allows activities such as art therapy to still stimulate patients’ senses who are suffering from the disease.”

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago has recently been pioneering a new offering for Alzheimer’s patients, allowing them to take private tours of the gallery. Patients may still be able to process the color, form and shape of a piece of art and this translates into better communication amongst the visitors. Carers have reported that patients can express themselves with greater freedom and fluidity after touring the exhibitions.

While scientists continue to carry out vital research into the treatment of Alzheimer’s, the arts can go some way to relieving some of the disease’s most difficult symptoms, help maintain patients’ independence and indignity and provide them with a meaningful creative outlet. 

Tags: Art therapy, Early Alzheimer's, treatment

New research into the development of Alzheimer’s may improve future detection and treatment

Posted under Blog on July 13th, 2012 by Editorial Team / No Comments

Two pieces of research published this week reveal a timeline for the development of Alzheimer’s and a protective gene that helps to prevent the disease in a small percentage of the population. The two papers are published in the scientific journals The New England Journal of Medicine and Nature.

Alzheimer’s timeline might help early treatment and diagnosis

Scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine studied individuals with a genetic risk for early onset Alzheimer’s. They revealed that changes in the brain occur at least two decades before the onset of clinical symptoms, suggesting that current diagnoses are usually made at an advanced stage of the disease’s biological development.

  • 25 years before – the earliest changes show increased levels of the protein, amyloid beta which go on to produce plaques in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients
  • 15 years before - some shrinkage of the brain was observed along with increased levels of a protein called tau, which causes tangles between nerve cells
  • 10 years before - the brain’s ability to metabolise glucose appeared to change with the appearance of slight memory problems

These results may have dramatic implications for the diagnosis and treatment of those at risk of developing Alzheimer’s at an early age.

“The ability to detect the very earliest stages of Alzheimer's would not only allow people to plan and access care and existing treatments far sooner, but would also enable new drugs to be trialled in the right people, at the right time," commented Dr Eric Karran, director of Research at Alzheimer's Research UK.


Rare protective gene prevents Alzheimer’s

A few lucky people appear to carry a genetic mutation which prevents them from developing Alzheimer’s.

The mutation — the first ever found to protect against the disease — lies in a gene that produces amyloid precursor protein (APP), which has long been suspected to be at the heart of Alzheimer’s although its function is still largely unknown. This research does seem to point a finger at amyloid-β, the target for several therapies being investigated to see if they can slow the development and progression of Alzheimer’s. However, scientists say this doesn’t mean it’s the only factor.



Tags: AAIC, Alzheimer's Association International Conference, diagnosis, Early Alzheimer's, research, The New England Journal, treatment



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