Dementia in the News

Scientists improved the cognitive ability of adult mice by boosting the survival of newborn neurons in the brain's memory hub. Enhancing the survival of these cells, when combined with exercise, produced antidepresseant effects as well. The findings may open up new avenues for treating cognitive, mood and anxiety disorders.

Oxford University scientists have developed a new method for delivering complex drugs directly to the brain, a necessary step for treating diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Motor Neuron Disease and Muscular Dystrophy.

These diseases have largely resisted attempts to over the last 50 years develop new treatments, partly because of the difficulty of getting effective new drugs to the brain to slow or halt disease progression.

Laboratories at the University of New Mexico (UNM), Brown University, and House Ear Institute (HEI) have developed a new technique to observe herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1) infections growing inside cells. HSV1, the cause of the common cold sore, persists in a latent form inside nerve cells. Re-activation and growth of HSV1 infections contribute to cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer's disease. Details are published in the March 31 issue of PLoS ONE magazine from the Public Library of Science.

The two largest studies of Alzheimer's disease, an international analysis of genes of more than 50,000 people, have led to the discovery of five new genes that make the disease more likely in the elderly and provide tantalizing clues about what might start Alzheimer’s going and fuel its progress in a person’s brain.

The new genes add to a possible theme: so far genes that increase Alzheimer’s risk in the elderly tend to be involved with cholesterol and with inflammation. They also may be used to transport molecules inside cells.

Brian Vincent hadn't gone on a vacation in a year. Since taking over management of the family's grocery store, even a sick day was rare.

Is the human brain, with all its problem-solving prowess and creative ability, powerful enough to understand itself? Nothing in the known universe (with the exception of the universe itself) is more complex; the brain contains about 100 billion nerve cells, or neurons, each of which can communicate with thousands of other brain cells.

ABOUT THIS REPORT
2011 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures provides a statistical resource for U.S. data related to Alzheimer's Disease, the most common type of dementia, as well as other dementias. Background and context for interpretation of the data are contained in the Overview. This information includes definitions of the types of dementia and a summary of current knowledge about Alzheimer's disease. Additional sections address prevalence, mortality, caregiving and use and costs of care and services.

When Alzheimer's disease actually starts is often not clear, but it now appears that it may be preceded by rapid cognitive decline for up to six years before it becomes evident, a new study suggests.

This accelerated deterioration in memory and other mental function is not seen in people who do not develop Alzheimer's disease, the researchers said.

"Alzheimer's disease has a much longer course and affects substantially more people than generally recognized," said lead researcher Robert S. Wilson, a senior neuropsychologist at the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center in Chicago.

The brain is a black box. A complex circuitry of neurons fires information through channels, much like the inner workings of a computer chip. But while computer processors are regimented with the deft economy of an assembly line, neural circuits are impenetrable masses. Think tumbleweed.

Researchers in the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School have developed a technique for unraveling these masses. Through a combination of microscopy platforms, researchers can crawl through the individual connections composing a neural network, much as Google crawls web links.

William Gonzalez's world collapsed when his wife of more than 50 years was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease four years ago. The 78-year-old Cuban immigrant knew little about the scourge that was gradually robbing his wife of a lifetime of memories.

Today, the Air Force veteran struggles to run his home in Davie, Fla., while serving as sole caretaker for his 74-year-old wife Aida.

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