Dementia in the News

When David Harrison began studying aging, he had yet to experience its effects. In his late twenties, he was fit, healthy and impervious to harsh New England winters; on all but the coldest days, he'd strap on cross-country skis and head for the Maine hills. Now, though, at age 67, he sees in himself the progressive decline he has observed in the mice and other animals of his research. A decade ago, doctors removed a prostate tumor before the cancer spread to his bones, but other problems have accumulated.

Although caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive drug worldwide, its potential benefit for maintenance of proper brain functioning has only recently begun to be adequately appreciated. Substantial evidence from epidemiological studies and fundamental research in animal models suggests that caffeine may be protective against the cognitive decline seen in dementia and Alzheimer's disease (AD).

New findings by researchers from the Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah, reveals treatment of the most common heart rhythm disorder that affects more than two million Americans significantly reduces the risk of stroke, mortality, Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have shown that patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD) are better able to remember new verbal information when it is provided in the context of music even when compared to healthy, older adults. The findings, which currently appear on-line in Neuropsychologia, offer possible applications in treating and caring for patients with AD.

Sitting at a sidewalk cafe in Montreal on a sunny morning, Karim Nader recalls the day eight years earlier when two planes slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. He lights a cigarette and waves his hands in the air to sketch the scene.

Husbands or wives who care for spouses with dementia are six times more likely to develop the memory-impairing condition than those whose spouses don't have it, according to results of a 12-year study led by Johns Hopkins, Utah State University, and Duke University. The increased risk that the researchers saw among the caregivers was on par with the power of a gene variant known to increase susceptibility to Alzheimer's disease, they report in the May Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Some people with Alzheimer's disease may be helped by a brain shunt normally used to treat another, less common neurological condition, new research suggests.

The other condition, normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH), occurs when excess cerebrospinal fluid builds up in the ventricles, or cavities, deep within the brain. The reasons for the build-up of fluid are unknown, but it tends to occur in older people, said study author Dr. Sebastian Koga, a senior resident and surgeon in the department of neurosurgery at University of Virginia Health Science Center.

For generations, the prototypical search-and-rescue case in America was Timmy in the well, with Lassie barking insistently to summon help. Lost children and adolescents - from the woods to the mall - generally outnumbered all others.

But last year for the first time, another type of search crossed into first place in Virginia, marking a profound demographic shift that public safety officials say will increasingly define the future as the nation ages:  wandering, confused dementia patients like Freda Machett.

In the fight against memory loss, nothing is certain, doctors say.

A seemingly steady stream of new research purposts to show supplements' and vitamins' promise in preventing or slowing cognitive decline, but in reality, no hard evidence supports taking any of them. At the same time, such supplements have been proved safe, barring drug interactions and other complications, so some doctors recommend trying them anyway.

With millions of aging Americans experiencing a decrease in cognitive function, the need for a natural prevention method is obvious.

Scientists found a pattern of diminished brain volume in those with a variant of the gene known as FTO.

The mutation can cause people to over-eat and is carried by almost half of Caucasians but only 16 percent of Asians, which could help explain why they suffer less from obesity.

Neurologist Professor Paul Thompson and colleagues said the brain differences could not be directly attributed to other obesity-related factors such as cholesterol levels, diabetes or high blood pressure.

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