Dementia in the News

The ability to perceive relationships between objects (visuospatial skills) may decline years before a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, a new study suggests.

It included 444 people who were dementia-free when they were enrolled in the study and underwent tests on a number of cognitive abilities, including visuospatial skills. The assessments were repeated at least once before the end of the study. After an average follow-up of 5.9 years, 134 participants had developed dementia. Of those, 44 underwent brain autopsies that confirmed they had Alzheimer's disease.

Two articles in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease -- by Dr. Chris Exley, Reader in Bioinorganic Chemistry in the Research Institute for the Environment, Physical Sciences and Applied Mathematics at Keele University, UK, and Dr. Zhao-Feng Jiang, of Beijing Union University, Beijing, China -- have confirmed a potentially protective role for copper in Alzheimer's disease.

Previous research has shown that copper is one component of the amyloid beta plaques which are found in the brains of people of Alzheimer's disease.

The action of a small protein that is a major villian in Alzheimer's disease can be counterbalanced with another brain protein, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found in an animal study.

The findings, available online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest a promising new tactic against the devastating illness, the researchers said.

One early summer Saturday, Ted Clapp, a retired minister and psychologist, invited about twenty of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to lunch at his place north of Portland, Maine. He had set out some family treasures - including arrowheads found on his grandfather's farm, watercolor paintings by some "ancient ancestor," an antique trumpet, and his great-grandfather's sword - that he'd collected over his ninety years.

The surgeon who removed the five-year-old boy's tonsils in 1959 had never seen anything like them. Instead of pinkish lobes, the boy's tonsils were huge and orange. Thinking that their extraordinary appearance might signal a rare malignancy, the surgeon sent the tonsils to the Armed Forces Pathology Institute in Washington, DC. Though researchers there found no cancer, they did discover the reason for the tissue's abnomal size and color:  Its cells were bloated with cholesterol.

A study commissioned by the National Football League reports that Alzheimer's disease or similar memory-related diseases appear to have been diagnosed in the league's former players vastly more often than in the national population - including a rate of 19 times the normal rate for men ages 30 through 49.

 

The N.F.L. has long denied the existence of reliable data about cognitive decline among its players. These numbers would become the league's first public affirmation of any connection, though the league pointed to limitations of this study.

 

Oleocanthal, a naturally-occuring compound found in extra-virgin olive oil, alters the structure of neurotoxic proteins believed to contribute to the debilitating effects of Alzheimer's disease. This structural change impedes the protein's ability to damage brain nerve cells.

"The findings may help identify effective preventative measures and lead to improved therapeutics in the fight against Alzheimer's disease," said study co-leader Paul A. S. Breslin, PhD, a sensory psychobiologist at the Monell Center.

A new study published in the medical journal Neurology suggests that impaired kidney function is a risk factor for cognitive decline in old age. The study, conducted by researchers at Rush University Medical Center, found that poor kidney function was linked specifically with cognition related to memory functions. Damage to one of these functions, episodic memory, which retrieves memories of time, place, associated emotions and other contextual knowledge, is often the earliest sign of Alzheimer's disease.

 

Caring for an elderly parent is emotionally and mentally draining. There are diagnoses to decipher, housing issues to consider, health aides to vet and a raft of legal documents to complete. It can seem overwhelming, even when families are in complete agreement on how to care for an elderly relative. And often they are not.

Sleepless nights may lead to the development of Alzheimer's disease over time, a study of mice suggests.

Rodents forced to stay awake showed a buildup in their brains of a protein associated with the development of Alzheimer's in humans, said lead study authoer Jae-Eun Kang. The research was published today in the journal Science.

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