The unexpected way we might one day diagnose Alzheimer’s

How do you stop Alzheimer’s disease without a simple way to diagnose it? It’s a real chicken and egg problem, as I wrote last year on TGN. Discovering a treatment for Alzheimer’s requires lots of clinical trials for new drugs—but it’s difficult to enroll participants without a way to identify people who have the disease early enough for potential treatments to work.

Right now, the best way to diagnose the disease is through a spinal tap or a brain scan. The problem is that the former is invasive and the latter is expensive. Plus, many patients don’t get these tests until they start showing signs of cognitive decline, which means the disease may already be pretty advanced. It’s hard to overstate how important finding a reliable, affordable, and easy-to-use diagnostic is for stopping Alzheimer’s.


How Scientists Are Helping New Neurons Survive In The 'Battle Field' Of Alzheimer's Disease

While some scientists are still trying to make up their minds on whether our minds keep making new neurons into old age, some say the debate has long since been settled. And they’re moving forward to find out just how helpful the overwhelming evidence that we do will be for the 5.8 million people suffering from Alzheimer’s and the 14 million expected to be afflicted with the disease by 2050.


Three Things I Learned From Mom’s First Year in Assisted Living

The day I moved Mom into Assisted Living is still with me. It’s a scratch and sniff polaroid of a memory pinned to my forehead. Unlike other memories because of how holistically vivid it is. I remember every look, sound, smell as if it were all happening in slow motion.

Mom’s blank and helpless facial expression in the moments before we walked in for the first time is forever etched into my mind. I still hear her words and definitely still feel their sting. At random times I even see the way she smeared her lipstick into an upside down state of Florida as she wiped away her tears. And the waft of cigarette smoke from the lady walking her dog in the parking lot as we got out of the car is still under my nose.


Bursack: Dad's verbal abuse stemming from dementia needs to be managed with determination, patience

Dear Carol: My dad’s in the middle to late stages of Alzheimer’s disease. It’s been rough on both my mom and me in many ways, but right now I can say that the worst is my dad’s verbal abuse. He was always a gentle, wonderful man, so this uncharacteristic behavior is extra baffling and hurtful. He calls us ugly names and swears at us because he thinks that we’re stealing from him or even poisoning him. Mom is so ashamed that this is happening that she can’t tell anyone about it but I need an outlet, which is why I’m writing. How do we handle living with Dad’s verbal abuse without breaking down or acting ugly ourselves? — KC.


A behavior is not a problem. It’s a message.

The physical changes that occur in the brains of people living with dementia impact their ability to process information. As a result, they sometimes respond with puzzling behaviors. A loved one may become anxious or aggressive, repeating certain questions or misinterpreting what he or she hears.

Although the disease makes it impossible for a loved one to change how he or she responds, rethinking how to communicate and analyzing the underlying reasons for the behavior can be effective strategies.


How ditching hospital gowns for clothes is helping patients regain a sense of humanity

A health-care advocate who started the hashtag #endpjparalysis has ignited a conversation about what he says is a harmful patient practice that has been "hidden in plain sight."

"Pyjamas make you perceive yourself as unwell," said Brian Dolan, a visiting professor of nursing at Oxford Institute of Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Research in the U.K.

"People come into hospital, they get into their pyjamas, and then they are paralyzed in their pyjamas," he said.


Alliance for Aging Research Releases Survey Results Highlighting Public Interest in Detecting Alzheimer’s Disease Early and Participating in Clinical Trials

Today, the Alliance for Aging Research (the “Alliance”) released new survey data that reveals the vast majority of people want to know if they are at risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and are eager to take part in early detection, clinical trials, and discussions with their medical care providers. The survey, conducted by Avalere Health and sponsored by the Alliance, sought to understand general understanding of diagnosing AD early. The findings of the study will inform strategic and impactful educational messaging and outreach strategies with the overarching goal of increasing awareness of AD among all Americans.


Light and sound stimulus therapy generates a buzz in Alzheimer’s research world

The often-discouraging search for ways to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s disease may have flickered to life this week with a bright new idea — and a buzzy new soundtrack as well.

In experiments conducted on mice, scientists used light and sound to orchestrate a series of episodes that were marked by an unusual state of electronic synchrony inside the animals’ brains. Prompted by a gently flickering light and a pulsating buzz — both timed to fire 40 times per second — their brains began to hum to the same frequency.

The results, published this week in the journal Cell, are already yielding some powerful insights about what may go wrong in Alzheimer’s disease, and how that process might be halted or reversed.


Alzheimer's Risk Linked to Extended Family

Alzheimer's disease risk rose when individuals had first-, second-, or third-degree relatives with the disease, an analysis of genealogy and death certificates in Utah found.

The risk doubled if a person had both a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) and a second-degree relative (grandparent, aunt, uncle, or a sibling who shared one parent) who had the disease, according to Lisa Cannon-Albright, PhD, of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, and colleagues.

Alzheimer's disease in only third-degree relatives (great-grandparents, great uncles, great aunts, and first cousins) also raised risks, the researchers reported in Neurology.


Aging and sleep: Making changes for brain health

As a neuropsychologist, my research interests have focused on the link between sleep and cognitive health. As I have gotten older, I have personally come to appreciate the restorative power of a good night’s sleep for thinking, memory, and functioning at my best.

Sleep affects our overall health, including our hormones and immune system. Neurobiological processes that occur during sleep have a profound impact on brain health, and as a result, they influence mood, energy level, and cognitive fitness.


Most doctors don’t screen for dementia, but that may change in Massachusetts

Nine out of 10 older people get their blood pressure checked when they visit their primary care doctors, and 73 percent are screened for hearing or vision loss. But what about problems with memory or thinking? Only 16 percent are asked about that.

Those are among the findings in a pair of surveys conducted by the Alzheimer’s Association and released last week. The results show that although Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia are common afflictions of old age, when it comes to detecting early symptoms, many doctors just don’t want to go there.