Family & Friends Can Help Diagnose Alzheimer’s

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Since Alzheimer’s attacks the brain, the major visible changes to a person descending into Alzheimer’s are changes in behavior. So it is certainly no surprise that in general, the people who can most knowledgeably speak to a person’s behavioral changes are that person’s family and friends. Because of this, the “AD8, A brief informant interview to detect dementia” was developed at Washington University for use in interviewing family and friends. It contains eight yes-no questions dealing with issues such as:

Less interest in hobbies/activities

Trouble handling complicated financial affairs (e.g., balancing checkbook, income taxes, paying bills)

Trouble remembering appointments

A pdf of the complete AD8 is available here; Permission to use the AD8 can be obtained here.
(It would seem that a combination of the AD8 with the UPSIT “scratch and sniff” test would make a moderately good inexpensive screening combination.)

These links to some articles on the AD8 have been posted in
Alzheimer’s > Diagnosis & Tests:

The AD8 and its Use as an Alzheimer’s Screening Test

Family, Friends Seem Best at Spotting Early Dementia

And these research publication links have also been posted in Alzheimer’s > Diagnosis & Tests. The first link is the original publication on the AD8, and the others are follow-ups:

The AD8: A brief informant interview to detect dementia

Relationship of dementia screening tests with biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease

The impact of dementia prevalence on the utility of the AD8

Reply: The impact of dementia prevalence on the utility of the AD8

Category: Announcements

Which Diet Is Best?

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It seems as if there are zillion competing diets out there, with articles and books recommending them, and many of them are contradictory in their recommendations. Amid all that tumult, publisher Annual Reviews approached respected Professor and practicing physician Dr. David Katz, known for his balanced views, to evaluate and compare the current major diet recommendations. Katz and his colleague wrote: “There have been no rigorous, long-term studies comparing contenders for best diet laurels using methodology that precludes bias and confounding. For many reasons, such studies are unlikely.” They go on to state that no diet is clearly best, but there are common elements across eating patterns that are proven to be beneficial to health: “A diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.”

Links to two articles about the study, as well as a link to the study itself, have been posted in Health > Diet:

Science Compared Every Diet, and the Winner Is Real Food

Is There Really A ‘Best Diet’? Scientists Say Eat ‘Real’ Food, And Not Too Much Of It

Original article:

Can We Say What Diet Is Best for Health?

Category: Announcements

Smelling Alzheimer’s & Brain Injury?

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The sense of smell (olfactory sense) works to match up odorant molecules in the air and memories stored in the brain. Those memories are not housed in a single place, but instead extend across many regions. Consequently, proper functioning of smell is quite sensitive to damage in the brain. In particular, during onset of Alzheimer’s, smell is also the first sense to be affected: the hallmark protein tangles of Alzheimer’s appear early in the olfactory bulb. But besides Alzheimer’s, traumatic brain injury (TBI) and Parkinson’s also affect the olfactory sense.
The three studies listed below all made use of the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test (UPSIT), in which 40 common odourants are embedded in microcapsules in the pages of a booklet. A person being tested scratches the relevant strip and sniffs the odor (“scratch and sniff”), then chooses from one of four options in order to identify what they think they are smelling. The test is well-validated. Consequently, the use of the UPSIT is a promising inexpensive preliminary screening tool for Alzheimer’s as well as TBI.

Links to four articles together with three research publications have been posted in Alzheimers > Diagnosis & Tests:

Are Alzheimers Smell Tests Better Than Memory Tests?

Reduced sense of smell associated with increased risk of death in older adults

Smell Tests Could One Day Reveal Head Trauma and Neurodegenerative Disease

Smell Test Helps Identify TBI in Blast-Injured Soldiers

Research publications:
Odor identification and Alzheimer disease biomarkers in clinically normal elderly

Olfactory identification deficits and increased mortality in the community.

Olfactory impairment and traumatic brain injury in blast-injured combat troops

Category: Announcements

Anti-Cancer Drug Might Lead to Alzheimer’s Preventatives

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Research has shown the potential for drugs based on the anti-cancer drug bexarotene to possibly act as “neurostatins” to ward off or prevent Alzheimer’s disease, much as statins are taken by people to reduce the risk of developing heart disease. The research was carried out in worms, so of course it will be some time before human trials can be completed.

Links to two articles about the research, as well as the research publication itself, have been posted in Alzheimer’s > Treatment > Drugs:

Alzheimer’s preventative drug hope

Potential Alzheimer’s Therapies May Result from Research Into Anti-Cancer Drug, Scientists Say

Research publication:
An anticancer drug suppresses the primary nucleation reaction that initiates the production of the toxic Aβ42 aggregates linked with Alzheimer’s disease

Category: Announcements

Bilingual People Better At Stroke Recovery

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A new study adds to evidence that bilingualism strengthens the brain. 608 stroke patients were studied, and it was shown that post-stroke, bilinguals were more likely to enjoy normal cognition compared with monolinguals (40.5% versus 19.6%). On the other hand, there were no differences in the frequency of aphasia.

Links to two articles about the study, together with the study itself, have been posted in Alzheimer’s > Amelioration/Prevention > Speaking Two Languages:

Speaking More Than One Language Eases Stroke Recovery

Languages help stroke recovery, study says

Published research:
Impact of Bilingualism on Cognitive Outcome After Stroke [Abstract free; full text: paywall]

Category: Announcements

Stress Can Lead To Alzheimer’s

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Stress is bad news for any number of reasons, from depression to high blood pressure. Now new research suggests that stress may lead to amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) — the most common form of mild cognitive impairment, an early stage of Alzheimer’s.

Articles discussing the study, as well as the study itself, have been linked in Risk Factors:

Can high stress raise your risk of Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s Risk Might Increase With Stress

Original article:
Influence of Perceived Stress on Incident Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment: Results From the Einstein Aging Study. [Abstract free; Full text: paywall]

Category: Announcements

Gambling To Fight Off Dementia

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Some gambling games take considerable mental activity to play. That lies behind the use of gambling (albeit not for money) at some Japanese senior day care centers. The idea is that the mental activities of a ‘casino’ stimulates the brain and helps to prevent or suppress the development of dementia. Perhaps the ultimate mental exercise? A link to the article has been posted in Mental Exercise:

Gambling away dementia? Japan’s seniors turn to chance to stay sharp

Category: Announcements

A Promising Chemical For Alzheimer’s In Mice

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An early-stage animal study with mice in South Korea has shown that a chemical, called EPPS, can break down characteristic Alzheimer’s plaques in the brains of mice. The result was that treatments with EPPS improved the performance of Alzheimer’s mice in tests of memory and learning compared to untreated mice. While promising, it will take years of work for this to lead to a possible treatment in human beings.

Links to an article about the research, and the research study itself, have been posted in Neurology & Neuroplasticity:

Chemical Appears to Restore Memory and Clear Alzheimer’s Protein in Mice

Original article:
EPPS rescues hippocampus-dependent cognitive deficits in APP/PS1 mice by disaggregation of amyloid-β oligomers and plaques

Category: Announcements

Humor, Sarcasm, & Dementia : What Changes Say (or Not)

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A study from University College London of 48 dementia patients suggests that an increasingly warped sense of humor may be an early warning sign of impending frontotemporal dementia, which is one of the more rare forms of dementia and affects the area of the brain involved with personality and behavior. Looking back over nine years leading to the dementia diagnosis, family and friends felt the patients had developed a dark sense of humor, coupled with a tendency to prefer slapstick to satire.

Somewhat in contrast, a study at the University of Aberdeen of 116 people, 36 of whom were over 65, tended to show that the older people were equally skilled at interpreting normal conversations as the other participants, but that the over-65 group was somewhat less skilled at interpreting conversations involving sarcasm.

Links to articles about the dementia/humor study, and the study itself, have been posted in Diagnosis & Tests:

Change in sense of humor ‘a sign of impending dementia’

Changes in humour an early sign of dementia

Original article:
Altered Sense of Humor in Dementia

A link to an article about the study concerning age and sarcasm, as well as the study itself, have been posted in Aging:

Vitally important news: over-65s don’t get sarcasm

Original article:
Older adults have difficulty in decoding sarcasm.

Category: Announcements

Strong Legs (& The Rest) Lead To A Strong Brain

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A gold-standard study from Kings College, London, notably extends the many previous studies linking physical exercise with improved cognitive aging. The study utilized 324 pairs of healthy female twins (average age at study start was 55 with a range of 43-73), and extended for 10 years, with a subset of identical twins followed up at 12 years. Since the thigh muscle is the largest muscle in the human body, the power it could develop was taken as a proxy for the overall muscular fitness of the body. The study found a striking relationship between leg power (representing overall fitness) and both 10-year cognitive change and total grey matter. The study conclusion reads:

Leg power predicts both cognitive ageing and global brain structure, despite controlling for common genetics and early life environment shared by twins. Interventions targeted to improve leg power in the long term may help reach a universal goal of healthy cognitive aging

Links to three articles about the study, as well as the study itself, have been filed in both Aging and Health > Physical Exercise:

Fitter legs linked to a ‘fitter’ brain

Brawn and Brains

Fitter legs linked to a ‘fitter’ brain [Kings College article]

Original article:
Kicking Back Cognitive Ageing: Leg Power Predicts Cognitive Ageing after Ten Years in Older Female Twins

Category: Announcements