Dementia in the News

CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook and Dr. Rudolph Tanzi, professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, joined "CBS This Morning: Saturday" to discuss the major medical stories of the week.

Residents of this facility for people with Alzheimer’s disease toss around a yellow ball and laugh under a cascade with their caregivers, in a swimming pool ringed by palm trees and wind chimes. Susanna Kuratli, once a painter of delicate oils, swims a lap and smiles.

Watching is her husband, Ulrich, who has a heart-rending decision: to leave his wife of 41 years in this facility 9,000 kilometers (5,600 miles) from home, or to bring her back to Switzerland.

A new study suggests that a history of concussion involving at least a momentary loss of consciousness may be related to the buildup of Alzheimer's-associated plaques in the brain. The research is published in the Dec. 26, 2013, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

New findings provide insight into the damage caused by mild traumatic brain injury and suggest approaches for reducing its harmful effects.

Nationwide, at least 1.7 million traumatic brain injuries occur each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 75% of these are concussions or other mild forms of traumatic brain injury.

To learn new motor skills, the brain must be plastic: able to rapidly change the strengths of connections between neurons, forming new patterns that accomplish a particular task. However, if the brain were too plastic, previously learned skills would be lost too easily.
This works well for learning one skill, but complications arise when the brain is trying to learn many different skills at once.  Because the same distributed network controls related motor tasks, new modifications to existing patterns can interfere with previously learned skills.

In a policy brief launched today, Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI) has announced that the number of people living with dementia worldwide in 2013 is now estimated at 44 million (estimated at 35 million in 2010) reaching 76 million in 2030 (66 million) and 135 million by 2050 (115 million).   

The Policy Brief entitled ‘The Global Impact of Dementia 2013-2050’ reports a staggering 17% increase in global estimates of people living with dementia, compared to the original ADI estimates in the 2009 World Alzheimer’s Report.

Data that details every gene in the DNA of 410 people with Alzheimer's disease can now be studied by researchers, the U.S. National Institutes of Health announced this week.

This first batch of genetic data is now available from the Alzheimer's Disease Sequencing Project, launched in February 2012 as part of an intensified national effort to find ways to prevent and treat Alzheimer's disease.

Genome sequencing outlines the order of all 3 billion chemical letters in an individual's DNA, which is the entire set of genetic data every person carries in every cell.

Researchers from Brown University and Banner Alzheimer's Institute have found that infants who carry a gene associated with increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease tend to have differences in brain development compared to children without the gene. The study, published in JAMA Neurology, demonstrates some of the earliest developmental differences associated with a gene variant called APOE ε4, a common genotype and a known risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s.

Anne Kolesar thought she had packed well for her biking trip last month in Pennsylvania's "Grand Canyon," with clothes for cold weather and snacks. But after driving about a hundred miles, she looked through her rearview mirror and realized: Oops, no bike!

Kolesar, 61, laughs heartily as she tells this story. But hovering over the incident is her knowledge that she has an elevated genetic risk of Alzheimer's disease.

The Global CEO Initiative (CEOi) on Alzheimer's Disease, Sage Bionetworks, and IBM's DREAM, today announced the Alzheimer's Disease Big Data (AD#1) Challenge at the Alzheimer's Disease Summit: The Path to 2025.

The Summit, hosted by CEOi and the New York Academy of Sciences, is convening key industry, academic, government, and patient stakeholders to build on the current National Institutes of Health (NIH) milestones designed to achieve a means of prevention and effective treatment of Alzheimer's by 2025.

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