Dementia in the News

Sticky plaque gets the most attention, but now healthy seniors at risk of Alzheimer's are letting scientists peek into their brains to see if another culprit is lurking.

No one knows what actually causes Alzheimer's, but the suspects are its two hallmarks - the gunky amyloid in those brain plaques or tangles of a protein named tau that clog dying brain cells. New imaging can spot those tangles in living brains, providing a chance to finally better understand what triggers dementia.

Time's impact on the body is pretty obvious. The hair thins and turns white. Lines and wrinkles invade the skin. We can even lose an inch or two in height.

There are some changes, however, we cannot see. The brain is aging as well. The memory gets a little fuzzy. You walk into a room and can't for the life of you figure out why. These are mild changes, however, and cause little harm - just annoyance.

No longer interested in activities you once enjoyed? Having trouble concentrating or remembering things? Sounds like a clear-cut case of depression. Not so fast, says Dr. Olivia Okereke, the academic director of the Geriatric Psychiatry Program at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

"Symptoms of depression and dementia can overlap," she explained. Especially in early stages, it can be hard to distinguish between the two. Further complicating the issue is that both often occur together.

The past year has been a hopeful one in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease. New findings have brought clarity to understanding the disease’s progress; new drugs to attack it are in trials.

Rudolph Tanzi, the Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Child Neurology and Mental Retardation at Harvard Medical School, last month was named to Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world for his contributions to that fight, specifically his work uncovering the disease’s genetic underpinnings. 

The National Institutes of Health released recommendations today that provide a framework for a bold and transformative Alzheimer’s disease research agenda. Developed at the recent Alzheimer’s Disease Research Summit 2015: Path to Treatment and Prevention, the highly anticipated recommendations provide the wider Alzheimer’s research community with a strategy for speeding the development of effective interventions for Alzheimer’s and related dementias.

Partners HealthCare today announced its selections for the first annual “Disruptive Dozen,” the 12 emerging technologies with the potential to revolutionize neurological and psychiatric care over the next decade. The “Disruptive Dozen” was developed as a way to highlight the innovations with the greatest potential to impact care in a specific area of medicine. The technologies were featured as part of the World Medical Innovation Forum™, an annual collaborative innovation event held in Boston to examine the state of health care and innovation in a chosen medical discipline.

Air pollution is known to increase the risk for stroke and other cerebrovascular disorders. But now researchers have found it is also linked to premature aging of the brain.

Last year was a notable one for scientific achievements: In 2014, European researchers discovered a fundamental new particle that sheds light on the origins of the universe, and the European Space Agency successfully landed the first spacecraft on a comet. Chinese researchers, meanwhile, developed the world’s fastest supercomputer, and uncovered new ways to meet global food demand.

While attending college in her native Colombia, Yakeel T. Quiroz joined the Grupo de Neurociencias de Antioquia. This dedicated group of Colombian researchers, healthcare workers, and students has worked for many years with a large extended family in the northwestern district of Antioquia that is truly unique. About half of the more than 5,000 family members inherit a gene mutation that predisposes them to what is known locally as “la bobera,” or “the foolishness,” a devastating form of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

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