Dementia in the News

On behalf of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), I am pleased to present our first Professional Judgment Budget, commonly referred to as a Bypass Budget, for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. This plan for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 outlines the optimal approach NIH would take in an ideal world unconstrained by fiscal limitations to make real and lasting progress against this devastating group of disorders.

At the annual Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in July 2015, scientists report some encouraging news about the benefits of exercise. In the first studies to look at physical activity among people already diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s, moderate to high intensity workouts may not only slow down the biological symptoms of Alzheimer’s—but may lead to improvements in cognitive functions as well.

Women who develop slight but detectable deficits in memory and mental acuity late in life tend to decline faster than men with mild impairment, researchers reported on Tuesday.

Some two-thirds of the five million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease are women, a disparity that is partly because women live longer. Researchers have searched in vain for decades to determine other reasons.

Alzheimer's disease seems to develop differently in the brains of black patients than in whites. And, black people seem more likely to suffer different types of brain changes that also contribute to dementia, a new study reports.

Alzheimer's disease dementia is generally associated with a build-up of substances known as plaques and tangles inside the brain. But, there are other brain changes that can also contribute to dementia, the study authors noted.

Type 2 diabetes is known to put individuals at risk for numerous health complications. Now, a study led by researchers at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center sheds new light on the often-overlooked toll that diabetes can take on brain health.

This study found that over a period of just two years, older adults with Type 2 diabetes developed complications in blood flow regulation in the brain that led to impaired memory and other cognitive problems.

Ultra-high resolution imaging tools like 7-Tesla MRI now allowresearchers to glimpse the brain in extraordinary detail, openingthe door to new diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders.

Two imaging advances in particular – focused ultrasound andneuroimaging diagnostics in neurodegenerative and psychiatricillnesses – were featured in the 2015 Disruptive Dozen, the listof 12 technologies predicted to have the greatest impact onneurological care in the coming decade by Partners faculty.

When Jamie Tyrone found out that she carries a gene that gives her a 91 percent chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease beginning around age 65, she sank into a depression so deep that at times she wanted to end her life.

Tyrone, a registered nurse who lives in San Diego, decided to fight back. She exercised, changed her diet, and began taking supplements, including fish oil, vitamin D, vitamin B12, curcumin, turmeric, and an antioxidant called CoQ10.

We will be posting a new pay line for Alzheimer’s research, and I want to alert you to two important facts around it. First, the new pay lines are nine percentage points higher than our general RPG pay line and show advantages in other lines too, such as career awards and small business research. Second, we are now coding applications as Alzheimer’s when the NIH Research, Condition, and Disease Categorization (RCDC) coding system includes the proposed work in the Alzheimer’s category.

So how did we get here?

Clare has adjusted incredibly well to life in the dementia unit of her assisted living facility. I know that she has made some friends but she cannot tell me any of their names. I have also observed her enjoying many of her daily activities, especially those dealing with music and art. When Clare is engaged in activities, she is happy and has told me many times how much she has enjoyed various programs. But when there is "down time" between activities, Clare will sometimes become anxious and repetitively ask: "Has anyone seen my husband? Do you know where my husband is?"

For 67-year-old Joe Fabiano, every morning is the same. After helping his wife, Anita, also 67, out of bed, he helps her bathe and dress, then guides her through their home of 45 years to the kitchen.

"This way, just turn to the right," Joe tells Anita, holding her hands as she walks.

Anita, who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's in 2008, is now in the middle stage of the disease. She has problems finding the bathroom, kitchen and front door, even though the layout of their Staten Island home has never changed.

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