Dementia in the News

Lengthy waiting lists for rooms for Alzheimer’s patients are forcing caregivers to put their loved ones in less specialized facilities - which often levy additional fees for every extra service required to keep those vulnerable residents safe.

Does the patient need a daily prompt to take her medication? Tack $25 on to the monthly bill. Does he need to be reminded to go to lunch and dinner? That’ll be another $75 a month. Checking blood sugar might cost $55 a month. Double that if the staff is also in charge of injecting insulin.

Alzheimer's researchers are looking to our noses and our eyes for early signs of disease.Two studies presented Tuesday at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference 2016 suggested older adults with worsening ability to identify odors might be on the road to cognitive decline. Two other presentations explored different types of eye tests as possible predictors of the disease. Alzheimer's is the most common type of dementia, causing problems with memory, thinking and behavior.

The brain looks like a featureless expanse of folds and bulges, but it’s actually carved up into invisible territories. Each is specialized: Some groups of neurons become active when we recognize faces, others when we read, others when we raise our hands.

On Wednesday, in what many experts are calling a milestone in neuroscience, researchers published a spectacular new map of the brain, detailing nearly 100 previously unknown regions - an unprecedented glimpse into the machinery of the human mind.

Five drug makers, including Cambridge-based Biogen Inc., are banding together with academic scientists to form a research consortium aimed at speeding development of therapies for Alzheimer’s, a neurological disorder that has stubbornly eluded treatments.

The new group, which will be formally launched Thursday night at an event at Massachusetts General Hospital, is called the Massachusetts Center for Alzheimer Therapeutic Science, or MassCATS. It will be based at a Mass. General research center.

The gene that makes some people more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease as adults also affects the brain development and mental abilities of children, a new study shows.

Researchers who examined brain scans of 1,187 kids and teens found distinct patterns in the size and structure of the cortex, hippocampus and other important structures. These patterns were linked with different versions of a gene known as APOE, which may play a role in up to 25% of Alzheimer’s cases.

Nobody knew each other’s name. Even so, 60 people who either were at risk of having an autosomal-dominant Alzheimer’s mutation, or were accompanying someone who was, exchanged information about a shared problem. There were moments of validation - “Denial has divided my family, too!” - and apprehensive questions—“Do you want to know if you have it?” Family speakers on the program addressed the audience anonymously. Hotel staff knew only that they were hosting a medical symposium. The conference had no title.

WHEN a “brain fitness” course was introduced at her retirement community, Connie Cole was eager to sign up. After joining, she learned how to use an Apple iPad and work more complex tasks verbally and on paper.

Today, the House Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee proposed a $350 million increase for Alzheimer’s research at the NIH. This bipartisan effort was led by Alzheimer’s champion Chairman Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and comes just weeks after the Senate Appropriations Committee proposed a historic $400 million increase. The full House Appropriations Committee may take action on the House Appropriations bill as early as next week.

Pat Summitt's death at age 64 was caused by an uncommon kind of Alzheimer's

Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, is usually a disease of the elderly. Symptoms generally first start to appear when people are in their mid-60s. Rarely, Alzheimer’s also affects people much younger, sometimes people in their 40s and 50s. It struck Pat Summitt, the renowned basketball coach who captured the most wins ever in Division 1 basketball, at age 59.

Starting in July, a massive open online course (MOOC) will translate recent population-based findings into practical advice on how individual people might lower their risk of dementia. Called “Preventing Dementia,” the course will summarize factors reported to increase risk, such as hypertension and diabetes, and protective factors such as education and physical activity. The course targets an audience of health professionals, elder care service providers, policy makers, and anyone else interested in brain health.

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