Dementia in the News

Known for decades as patient H.M., Henry Molaison was familiar, indeed dear, to neuroscientists. In 1953, epilepsy surgery to remove a tiny part of his brain left him forever unable to acquire new facts and store them.

In China, there are only about 300 qualified physicians to treat more than 9 million dementia sufferers. The shortage is overwhelming families and threatening resources from an already stretched welfare system as the country ages.

Ten years after a training program was completed, certain cognitive abilities were still improved in older adults, according to a new report. The findings suggest that cognitive interventions could help older people remain independent for longer.

To test whether training could improve the cognitive abilities of older adults, healthy seniors were recruited from 6 cities between March 1998 and October 1999. The participants averaged 74 years of age and 14 years of education at the beginning of the study; 76% were female, 74% were white, and 26% were African-American.

The average life expectancy in the United States has fallen behind that of other industrialized nations as the American income gap has widened. In addition, better health habits, including those involving weight control, nutrition, and exercise, clearly influence the effects of aging among segments of the U.S. population.

For years, neuroscientist Li-Huei Tsai has been unraveling the brain circuits that underlie memory, searching for approaches that might be helpful in treating Alzheimer’s disease. In 2007, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientist identified an experimental drug that could restore lost memories in mice. Lately, she has been wondering whether that kind of drug might be useful to help people forget traumatic events that cause fear and anxiety.

Two thick blankets wrapped in a cloth tie lay near a single pillow on the red leather sofa in Phuong Lu’s living room. Doanh Nguyen, Ms. Lu’s 81-year-old mother, had prepared the blankets for a trip she wanted to take. “She’s ready to go to Vietnam,” Ms. Lu said.

But Ms. Nguyen would not be leaving. The doors were all locked from the inside to prevent her from going anywhere — not to the coating of snow that had fallen that day outside Ms. Lu’s suburban Philadelphia home, and certainly not to her home country, Vietnam.

Martin J. Walsh walked in the door to visit his grandmother at her Irish farmhouse, and she did not know who he was.

Mary Ann O’Malley did not remember her own daughter, either. By the time she had reached her early 80s, O’Malley had forgotten much of what she once knew intimately.

“We would walk in the house,” Walsh said in an interview, “and she would ask who we were.”

New studies suggest that novel [18F] ligands used with positron emission tomography (PET) may shed important light on the neural basis of memory impairment in the preclinical stages of Alzheimer's disease (AD).

It was the annual Labor Day tradition for the Savini family, a makeshift version of The Gong Show performed before the neighborhood on a wooden deck stage at their beach house in Massachusetts. In past years, Nicole Savini’s mom and friends dressed up in nightgowns as the housewives version of The Supremes, singing “Stop in the Name of Love” into wooden spoons.

Deanna Barch talks fast, as if she doesn’t want to waste any time getting to the task at hand, which is substantial. She is one of the researchers here at Washington University working on the first interactive wiring diagram of the living, working human brain.

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