Dementia in the News

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.

Walking is one of the best ways for older adults to stay active. But purposeful walking can turn into restless wandering when someone develops dementia. Escaping the watchful eyes of caregivers is dangerous, exposing vulnerable seniors to hazards from street traffic, unfamiliar terrain and opportunistic strangers. Even when family members and caregivers are on constant alert, 24/7 vigilance isn't always possible.

Suzanne Corkin and Henry Molaison shared more than just a research relationship, though that collaboration put them in the history books. When experimental surgery left him unable to form long-term memories, he became arguably the world’s most studied brain patient. For the rest of his life, Molaison completely forgot almost everything within a minute. “Studying how Henry forgot gave us a better understanding of how we remember,” wrote Dr.

Today, the call for increased Alzheimer's research funding from Alzheimer's Association advocates reached a critical milestone, as the Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee announced a proposed $400 million increase for Alzheimer's research at the NIH. This bipartisan effort was led by Alzheimer's champions Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who also oversaw last year's historic funding increase.

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