Latest Research News

Data from 876 patients (average age 78) in the 30-year Cardiovascular Health Study show that virtually any type of aerobic physical activity can improve brain volume and reduce Alzheimer's risk.

As we all know, people are living longer and obesity is at appalling levels. For both these (completely separate!) reasons, we expect to see growing rates of dementia. A new analysis using data from the long-running Framingham Heart Study offers some hope to individuals, however.

I've spoken before about how the presence or absence of the “Alzheimer's gene” may affect which lifestyle changes are beneficial for you. A new study has added to that idea with a finding that seafood consumption was associated with fewer signs of Alzheimer's-related pathology, but only among those with the APOEe4 gene.

Seafood consumption was also associated with increased mercury levels in the brain, with levels rising the more seafood was consumed. However, higher levels of mercury were not correlated with any neuropathologies.

A study involving 14 years of health records from more than 274,000 Northern Californians has assessed the relative dementia risk of six different ethnicities.

The average annual rate of dementia was:

After Alzheimer's disease, the next most common type of dementia is Lewy Body disease. Far less widely known, this form of dementia is often diagnosed quite late. A new study has validated a simple rating scale that non-specialist clinicians can use to quickly and effectively diagnose LBD in about three minutes.

The Lewy Body Composite Risk Score (LBCRS) is a simple, one-page survey with structured yes/no questions for six non-motor features that are present in patients with LBD, but are much less commonly found in other forms of dementia.

We know that traumatic brain injury increases the risk of later developing neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, but we haven't known why. New mouse studies suggest a reason.

A study involving both mice and human cells adds to evidence that stress is a risk factor for Alzheimer's.

The study found that mice who were subjected to acute stress had more amyloid-beta protein in their brains than a control group. Moreover, they had more of a specific form of the protein, one that has a particularly pernicious role in the development of Alzheimer's disease.

A ten-year study involving 2,092 older adults (average age 76) has found that people tended to lose awareness of memory problems two to three years before the onset of dementia.

Being unaware of your own memory problems is common in dementia, but previous research has focused on those already diagnosed with dementia. In this study, participants had no cognitive impairment at the beginning of the study.

A new questionnaire has been developed that very quickly determines whether or not a person has dementia and whether it's very mild, mild, moderate or severe. The 10-item questionnaire takes only 3-5 minutes and can be completed by a caregiver, friend or family member.

Testing on 239 individuals with various forms of dementia and 28 healthy controls has shown the results are comparable to the gold standard used presently, which takes several hours for an experienced professional to administer, interpret and score.

A long-running study comparing African-Americans and Nigerians has found the incidence of dementia has fallen significantly over two decades among the African-Americans, but remained the same for the Nigerians (for whom it was lower anyway).

The study enrolled two cohorts, one in 1992 and one in 2001, who were evaluated every 2–3 years until 2009. The 1992 cohort included 1440 older African-Americans (70+) and 1774 Nigerian Yoruba; the 2001 cohort included 1835 African-Americans and 1895 Yoruba. None of the participants had dementia at study beginning.

A post-mortem study of five Alzheimer's and five control brains has revealed the presence of iron-containing microglia in the subiculum of the Alzheimer's brains only.

Alzheimer's the evolutionary cost of better brains?

An examination of the brains of three groups of deceased individuals (13 cognitively normal, aged 20-66; 16 non-demented older adults, aged 70-99; 21 individuals with Alzheimer's, aged 60-95) has found that amyloid starts to accumulate and clump inside basal

A large meta-analysis has concluded that having diabetes increases the chance that a person with mild cognitive impairment will progress to dementia by 65%.

Last year I reported on a finding that ten lipids in the blood could predict development of MCI or Alzheimer's within 2-3 years, with over 90% accuracy.

A French study involving 36 healthy older adults (60-80), prescreened for amyloid deposits in the brain to exclude people who might have preclinical Alzheimer’s disease, has found a linear increase in gray matter volume in proportion to the number of years of education (7-20 years). Specifically, increases were seen in the right

Data from 57,669 older Taiwanese patients (65+) with no dementia at the beginning of the 5-year study has found that the risk of developing dementia was inversely related to statin dosage. Those on the highest doses of statins were three times less likely to develop dementia.

A comparison of Alzheimer’s prevalence across the world using 'age-standardized' data (which predict Alzheimer's rates if all countries had the same population birth rate, life expectancy and age structure) has found a strong correlation between national sanitation levels and Alzheimer's, with better hygiene associated with higher rates of Alzheimer’s.

Analysis of post-mortem with and without dementia has found lipopolysaccharide, a component of an oral bacterium (Porphyromonas gingivalis), in four out of 10 Alzheimer’s disease brain samples, but not in any of the 10 brains of people who didn’t have Alzheimer’s.

Gingivitis is extremely common, and about 64% of American seniors (65+) have moderate or severe periodontal disease.

The finding adds to evidence linking gum disease and Alzheimer’s.

Glucose levels linked to cognitive decline in those with MCI

A new review from The Cochrane Library, based on six trials involving 289 people, has concluded that exercise can improve cognition and the ability of older people with dementia to carry out daily activities, such as walking short distances or getting up from a chair. However, there was no clear effect of exercise on depression in older people with dementia, and the reviewers say that more evidence is needed to understand how exercise could reduce the burden on family caregivers and health systems.

There are five healthy behaviors that appear to significantly reduce the risk of dementia,

A pilot study involving 17 older adults with mild cognitive impairment and 18 controls (aged 60-88; average age 78) has found that a 12-week exercise program significantly improved performance on a semantic memory task, and also significantly improved brain efficiency, for both groups.

A study that followed 800 Swedish middle-aged women from 1968 to 2005 has found that high levels of stress in middle age increased Alzheimer’s risk by 21% and risk of any dementia by 15%.

Of the 800 women, 425 died during the course of the study while 153 (19%) developed dementia (of whom 104 developed Alzheimer’s), at an average age of 78. The number of stressors and long-standing distress were independently associated with Alzheimer’s.

A study comparing blood serum levels of the DDT metabolite, DDE, in 86 patients with Alzheimer's disease (average age 74) and 79 controls (average age 70), has found that levels of DDE were 3.8 times higher in 74 of the 86 Alzheimer’s patients (86%). Having the Alzheimer’s gene, APOe4, plus high levels of the pesticide, produced more severe cognitive impairment.

A small study involving 52 people aged 32-72 has found that those whose parents both had Alzheimer's disease showed more severe abnormalities in brain volume and metabolism and 5-10% more amyloid plaques in certain brain regions, compared to those with either a father or mother, or neither parent, with the disease. There were 13 in each group.

Consistent with previous research, those whose mother had Alzheimer's disease showed a greater level of the Alzheimer's disease biomarkers than those whose father had the disease.

Data from the population-based Finnish Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aging and Incidence of Dementia (CAIDE) study has revealed that healthy dietary choices in midlife may prevent dementia in later years. Out of 2,000 participants, 1,449 took part in the follow-up. The participants were 39 to 64 years old at baseline and 65 to 75 years old at follow-up.

Those who ate the healthiest diet at around age 50 had an almost 90% lower risk of dementia in a 14-year follow-up study than those whose diet was the least healthy.

A mouse study has found that mice (genetically engineered for Alzheimer’s) who were sleep deprived for eight weeks, not only showed significant cognitive impairment, but also showed a significant increase in the amount of tau protein that became phosphorylated and formed tangles. The other main characteristic of Alzheimer’s, amyloid-beta plaques, was not affected.

The findings are consistent with growing evidence of a link between sleep disturbance and Alzheimer’s, and suggests that chronic sleep disturbance accelerates Alzheimer’s pathology, and should be treated.

Data from 1.1 million young Swedish men (conscription information taken at age 18) has shown that those with poorer cardiovascular fitness were 2.5 times more likely to develop early-onset dementia later in life and 3.5 times more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment, while those with a lower IQ had a 4 times greater risk of early dementia and a threefold greater risk of

Data from 1,425 cognitively healthy older adults (70-89) has found that a diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) was associated with an 83% greater risk of developing non-amnestic mild cognitive impairment. The greatest risk was among patients who had COPD for more than five years.

We know that the E4 variant of the APOE gene greatly increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, but the reason is a little more mysterious. It has been thought that it makes it easier for amyloid plaques to form because it produces a protein that binds to amyloid beta.

I’ve talked before about the evidence linking diabetes to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, but now a new study suggests that elevated blood sugar levels increase Alzheimer’s risk even in those without diabetes, even in those without ‘pre-diabetes’.

A study involving nearly 6,000 African American older adults has found those with a specific gene variant have almost double the risk of developing late-onset Alzheimer’s disease compared with African Americans who lack the variant. The size of the effect is comparable to that of the ‘Alzheimer’s gene’, APOE-e4.

Providing some support for the finding I recently reported — that problems with semantic knowledge in those with mild cognitive impairment (

Previous research has pointed to an association between not having teeth and a higher risk of cognitive decline and dementia. One reason might have to do with inflammation — inflammation is a well-established risk factor, and at least one study has linked gum disease to a higher dementia risk. Or it might have to do with the simple mechanical act of chewing, reducing blood flow to the brain. A new study has directly investigated chewing ability in older adults.

Sad to say, another large study has given the thumbs down to ginkgo biloba preventing Alzheimer’s disease.

The randomized, double-blind trial took place over five years, involving 2854 older adults (70+) who had presented to their primary care physician with memory complaints. Half were given a twice-daily dose of 120 mg standardised ginkgo biloba extract and half a placebo.

New research suggests that reliance on the standard test Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale—Cognitive Behavior Section (ADAS-Cog) to measure cognitive changes in Alzheimer’s patients is a bad idea. The test is the most widely used measure of cognitive performance in clinical trials.

A small study shows how those on the road to Alzheimer’s show early semantic problems long before memory problems arise, and that such problems can affect daily life.

There's quite a bit of evidence now that socializing — having frequent contact with others — helps protect against cognitive impairment in old age. We also know that depression is a risk factor for cognitive impairment and dementia. There have been hints that loneliness might also be a risk factor. But here’s the question: is it being alone, or feeling lonely, that is the danger?

A large Dutch study, following 2173 older adults for three years, suggests that it is the feeling of loneliness that is the main problem.

It’s been unclear whether hormone therapy helps older women reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s or in fact increases the risk. To date, the research has been inconsistent, with observational studies showing a reduced risk, and a large randomized controlled trial showed an increased risk. As mentioned before, the answer to the inconsistency may lie in the timing of the therapy. A new study supports this view.

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