Boston Globe (December 13, 2010): Mind Slips

Publication Date: 
Mon, 12/13/2010

If you've been worried about forgetting names or misplacing car keys, you're not alone. You also are probably not losing your mind.

Family doctors say their baby boomer patients often worry that such forgetfulness portends a dementia-filled future.

The collective angst has proven fertile territory for hawkers of supplements and other products that, manufacturers promise, will clear the fog from aging brains. From 1999 through 2009, US sales of herbs and supplements marketed for mental acuity grew 49 percent, to $458 millon last year, according to Nutrition Business Journal.

It should be so simple. Some of the country's top brain researchers say they have yet to find mind preservation in a pill. They also don't have a rigourous way to tell when a lapse is just part of normal brain aging, versus a signal or serious trouble ahead. Boston researchers are embarking on a new study that they hope will help distinguish between the two. That information, may, one day, guide patients and caregivers in choosing the right treatments, when they become available.

Scientists at Brigham and Women's and Massachusetts General hospitals will be tracking 200 adults, age 65 and older, for five years, and asking them to do a few tasks that tend to trigger so-called senior moments.