Dementia in the News

The Food and Drug Administration plans to loosen the rules for approving new treatments for Alzheimer's disease.

Drugs in clinical trial would qualify for approval if people at very early stages of the disease subtly improved their performance on memory or reasoning tests, even before they developed any obvious impairments. Companies would not have to show that the drugs improved daily, real-world functioning.

It wasn't the toll from lugging a heavy tool box to work that finally sent Ray Clark to the gym. It was something more profound. He lost his wife of 67 years. Then he lost his daughter. He was looking for something to fill the empty hours.

"I was getting a little lazy at home, and I decided I'd go down to the exercise club," he recalled.

Previous studies have shown that keeping the mind active, exercising, and social interactions may help delay the onset of dementia in Alzheimer's patients.

Abnormalities in retinal vascular parameters (RVPs) may indicate increased amyloid plaque in the brain and can serve as biomarkers for preclinical Alzheimer's disease (AD), new research suggests.

Findings from the Australian Imaging, Biomarkers, and Lifestyle (AIBL) Flagship Study of Ageing showed that participants with AD had several significantly different RVPs, including narrower veins and a significantly higher arteriole-to-venule ratio (AVR), than their peers without AD.

When it comes to vascular brain injury, the dementia field has been mired in uncertainty. What is it, exactly? How can scientists measure and treat it? How does it realted to Alzheimer's patholology or contribute to cognitive decline? Answers to these old questions are still lacking, but two recent studies published online February 11 and 18 in JAMA Neurology suggest that vascular damage and amyloid plaques occur independently in early stages of AD.

In your mind, does the word "centiloid" conjure up images of a small creature with too many legs? Instead, think centimeter yardstick, or thermometer. A centiloid is a proposed unit of measure on a unified scale for all amyloid-beta imaging tracers used in positron emission tomography (PET). Alzheimer's disease scientists use a handful of ligands in research already, and while the FDA thus far has approved only one - Amyvid - for clinical use, other approvals appear likely. Since each tracer has its own chracteristic signal strength, comparing them remains difficult.

Only recently has it become possible to create high-quality images of the brain plaques characteristic of Alzheimer's disease in living people through positron emission tomography (PET). Even so, questions remain about what can be learned from these PET images and which people should have this test.

For decades scientists have known that the ability to remember newly learned information declines with age, but it was not clear why. A new study may provide part of the answer.

The report, posted online on Sunday by the journal Nature Neuroscience, suggests that structural brain changes occurring naturally over time interfere with sleep quality, which in turn blunts the ability to store memories for the long term.

Researchers have chosen an experimental drug by Eli Lilly & Co. for a large federally funded study testing whether it's possible to prevent Alzheimer's disease in older people at high risk of developing it.

The drug, called solaneuzumab (sol-ah-NAYZ-uh-mab), is designed to bind to and help clear the sticky deposits that clog patients' brains.

Earlier studies found it did not help people with moderate to severe Alzeimer's but it showed some promise against milder disease. Researchers think it might work better if given before symptoms start.

The doctors crowd around the computer monitor, examining the brain scans of the man lying on their operating table down the hall. The metal headdress they have mounted to his cranium - or "stereotactic frame" in medical lingo - provides coordinates, a sort of 3-D GPS they will use to guide platinum-iridium electrodes deep into his brain. The electricity pulsing through those electrodes will temporarily short out his misfiring globus pallidus.

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