Alzheimer's & Other Dementias

Latest news

  • A large study finds those who go on to develop Alzheimer's show atrophy of the hippocampus before age 40, and in the amygdala around age 40.

Brain scans from over 4,000 people, across the age range (9 months to 94 years) and including 1,385 Alzheimer's patients, has revealed an early divergence between those who go on to develop Alzheimer’s and those who age normally.

  • Fruitflies genetically engineered to express amyloid-beta show that neuron loss is not always bad, but reflects the removal of defective neurons.

A fruitfly study suggests that losing neurons is not necessarily a bad thing.

  • A mobile phone game designed to test spatial navigation skills (Sea Hero Quest) has found that performance can distinguish APOE4 carriers from non-carriers.
  • Preliminary findings from a long-term study indicate that middle-aged adults with close relatives with Alzheimer's did worse on a test that measured their ability to visualise their position, and tended to have a smaller hippocampus.
  • A small study found that increasing difficulties with building cognitive maps of new surroundings was linked to Alzheimer's biomarkers. Difficulties in learning a new route appeared later, among those with early Alzheimer's.

Mobile game detects Alzheimer's risk

  • A study involving nearly 600 older adults found that using two different episodic memory tests markedly improved MCI diagnosis, compared with only using one.
  • A large study found that the clock drawing test was better than the MMSE in identifying cognitive impairment, and concludes it should be given to all patients with high blood pressure.
  • A largish study of middle-aged men confirmed that practice effects mask cognitive decline in those who have experience repeated testing.
  • A large study indicates that verb fluency is a better test than the more usual word fluency tests, and poorer verb fluency was linked to faster decline to MCI and progression from MCI to dementia.
  • A smallish study found that a brief, simple number naming test differentiates between cognitively healthy older adults and those with MCI or Alzheimer's 90% of the time.
  • A study involving 450 patients with memory problems found that those with anosognosia (unawareness of such problems) had higher rates of amyloid-beta clumps and were more likely to develop dementia in the next 2 years.
  • Another larger study found that those with anosognosia  had reduced glucose uptake in specific brain regions.
  • A new cognitive test that assesses relational memory has been found to be effective in distinguishing very early mild Alzheimer's from normal aging.

Memory tests predict brain atrophy and Alzheimer's disease

  • A study found an association in healthy older adults between higher amyloid beta levels and worsening anxiety.

Data from the Harvard Aging Brain Study found that higher amyloid beta levels were associated with increasing anxiety symptoms in cognitively normal older adults. The results suggest that worsening anxious-depressive symptoms may be an early predictor of elevated amyloid beta levels.

  • A new test can quickly detect reduced blood capillaries in the back of the eye that are an early indication of Alzheimer's, and shows that it can help distinguish Alzheimer's from MCI.

A study has shown new technology can quickly and non-invasively detect reduced blood capillaries in the back of the eye that are an early indication of Alzheimer's.

  • A long-running study found subtle cognitive deficits evident 11-15 years before clear impairment, as were changes in tau protein.

A very long-running study involving 290 people at risk of Alzheimer's has found that, in those 81 people who developed

  • A large study found that most of those who were very poor at identifying common odors developed dementia within 5 years.
  • A study of older adults with a parent who had Alzheimer's found that those who were poorest at identifying odors showed the most Alzheimer's biomarkers.
  • A largish study found that poorer odor identification in older adults (average age 80) )was associated with a transition to dementia and with cognitive decline.
  • An animal study found olfactory dysfunction precedes cognitive problems, and relates amyloid-beta protein in the olfactory epithelium.
  • A large 13-year study found that a poor sense of smell was linked to a greater risk of death within 10 years, and of death from dementia and Parkinson’s disease in particular.

A long-term study of nearly 3,000 older adults (57-85) has found that those who couldn’t identify at least four out of five common odors were more than twice as likely as those with a normal sense of smell to develop dementia within five years.

  • A blood-clotting protein called fibrinogen has been shown to provoke the brain's immune cells into destroying synapses. The process begins with fibrinogen leaking from the blood into the brain.
  • Another study has found that nearly half of all dementias begin with a breakdown of the gatekeeper cells (pericytes) that help keep fibrinogen out of the brain.

Alzheimer's disease is associated with abnormalities in the vast network of blood vessels in the brain, but it hasn’t been known how this affects cognition. A study has now shown that a blood-clotting protein called fibrinogen plays a part.

  • Blood flow deficits in the brain, seen early on in Alzheimer's, have now been linked to some capilleries being block by white blood cells.

It’s been known that decreased blood flow in the brain occurs in people with Alzheimer's, and recent studies suggest that brain blood flow deficits are one of the earliest detectable symptoms of dementia.

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