Latest Research News

Confirming earlier research, a study involving 257 older adults (average age 75) has found that a two-minute questionnaire filled out by a close friend or family member is more accurate that standard cognitive tests in detecting early signs of Alzheimer’s.

The AD8 asks questions about changes in everyday activities:

Low levels of DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, have been found in the brains of those with Alzheimer's disease, but the reason has not been known. A new study has found that lower levels of DHA in the liver (where most brain DHA is manufactured) were correlated with greater cognitive problems in the Alzheimer’s patients. Moreover, comparison of postmortem livers from Alzheimer’s patients and controls found reduced expression of a protein that converts a precursor acid into DHA, meaning the liver was less able to make DHA from food.

A review of brain imaging and occupation data from 588 patients diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia has found that among the dementias affecting those 65 years and younger, FTD is as common as Alzheimer's disease. The study also found that the side of the brain first attacked (unlike Alzheimer’s, FTD typically begins with tissue loss in one hemisphere) is influenced by the person’s occupation.

A pilot study involving six patients with mild Alzheimer’s has shown using Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is safe and may help improve memory, or at least slow decline. Patients received continuous stimulation for 12 months, between 2005 and 2008. Impaired glucose utilization in the temporal and parietal

A two-year study involving 271 older adults (70+) with mild cognitive impairment has found that the rate of brain atrophy in those taking folic acid (0.8 mg/d), vitamin B12 (0.5 mg/d) and vitamin B6 (20 mg/d), was significantly slower than in those taking a placebo, with those taking the supplements experiencing on average 30% less brain atrophy. Higher rates of atrophy were associated with lower cognitive performance.

Data from a 35-year study of women from Gothenburg in Sweden has revealed that the risk of dementia was about 65% higher in women who reported repeated periods of stress in middle age than in those who did not. The risk increased with number of periods of stress, with women who reported stress on all three occasions they were asked (1968, 1974 and 1980) having more than double the risk of dementia. Stress was defined as a sense of irritation, tension, nervousness, anxiety, fear or sleeping problems lasting a month or more due to work, health, family or other problems.

A study involving over 180,000 older veterans (average age 68.8 at study start), of whom 29% had PTSD, has revealed that those with PTSD had a significantly greater risk of developing dementia. Over the seven years of the study, 10.6% of the veterans with PTSD developed dementia compared to 6.6% of those without PTSD. When age was used as the time scale, the risk for those with PTSD was more than double. Results were similar when those with a history of head injury, substance abuse, or clinical depression, were excluded.

Following on from previous research with mice that demonstrated that a diet rich in

The study involved 13 patients and 14 controls, who listened to either spoken lyrics or lyrics sung with full musical accompaniment while reading the printed lyrics on a screen. The 40 lyrics were four-line excerpts of children’s songs, all characterized by having simple, unrepeated lyrics, repetitive melodies, and a perfect end-rhyme scheme for the four lines. The participants were then given these 40 lyrics mixed in with 40 other similar lyrics, and asked whether they had heard it earlier.

A study involving over 1100 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease at 50 French clinics has revealed that receiving a comprehensive care plan involving regular 6-monthly assessments (with standardised guidelines for the management of problems) produced no benefits compared to receiving the usual care (an annual consultation). After two years, there was no significant difference in functional decline between the two groups, and no difference in the risk of being admitted to an institution or death.

A small study suggests that the apathy shown by many Alzheimer's patients may not simply be due to memory or language problems, but to a decreased ability to experience emotions. The seven patients were asked to rate pictures of positive and negative scenes (such as babies and spiders) by putting a mark closer or further to either a happy face or a sad face emoticon. Closeness to the face indicated the strength of the emotion felt.

Data from the long-running Framingham Heart Study has revealed that depression significantly increased the risk of developing dementia. Of the 125 people (13%) who were classified as having depression at the start of the study, 21.6% had developed dementia by the end of the study (17 years later). This compares to around 16.6% of those who weren’t depressed. When age, gender, education,

Confirming previous research, a study involving 270 Alzheimer’s patients has found that larger head size was associated with better performance on memory and thinking tests, even when there was an equivalent degree of brain damage.

It’s been suggested before that Down syndrome and Alzheimer's are connected. Similarly, there has been evidence for connections between diabetes and Alzheimer’s, and cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s. Now new evidence shows that all of these share a common disease mechanism. According to animal and cell-culture studies, it seems all Alzheimer's disease patients harbor some cells with three copies of chromosome 21, known as trisomy 21, instead of the usual two. Trisomy 21 is characteristic of all the cells in people with Down syndrome.

Part of the Women's Health Initiative study looking at the effect of hormone therapy on thinking and memory in postmenopausal women, involving over 1400 women, has found those who had high blood pressure at the start of the study (eight years earlier) had significantly higher amounts of

A three-year study involving 169 people with mild cognitive impairment has found that those who later developed Alzheimer's disease showed 10-30% greater atrophy in two specific locations within the

A study involving 511 older adults (average age 78) has found that 11.6% of those with very mild or mild Alzheimer’s (43% of the participants) had mental lapses, compared to only 2 of the 295 without Alzheimer’s. Those with mental lapses also tended to have more severe Alzheimer’s. Although mental lapses are characteristic of dementia with

Previous research suggesting loss of smell function may serve as an early marker of Alzheimer's disease has now been supported by a finding that in

Loss of memory and problems with judgment in dementia patients can cause difficulties in relation to eating and nutrition; these problems in turn can lead to poor quality of life, pressure ulcers and infections. A study used two different step-by-step training programs to help dementia patients regain eating skills. Three institutions, involving 85 patients, were assigned to one of three programs: spaced retrieval training; Montessori-based training; control. Training consisted of three 30-40 min sessions per week, for 8 weeks.

A European trial involving 225 patients with mild Alzheimer's has found that those who drank Souvenaid (a cocktail of uridine, choline and the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, plus B vitamins, phosopholipids and antioxidants) for 12 weeks were more likely to improve their performance in a delayed verbal recall task. 40% of the Souvenaid group showed improved performance compared to 24% of the placebo group. Those with the mildest cases of Alzheimer’s showed the most improvement. There was no improvement on the more general ADAS-cog test. Three further clinical trials, one in the U.S.

Subjective cognitive impairment (SCI), marked by situations such as when a person recognizes they can't remember a name like they used to or where they recently placed important objects the way they used to, is experienced by between one-quarter and one-half of the population over the age of 65.

A German study involving nearly 4000 older adults (55+) has found that physical activity significantly reduced the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment over a two-year period. Nearly 14% of those with no physical activity at the start of the study developed cognitive impairment, compared to 6.7% of those with moderate activity, and 5.1% of those with high activity. Moderate activity was defined as less than 3 times a week.

Rapamycin, a drug that keeps the immune system from attacking transplanted organs, was recently found to extend the life span of aged research mice.

A study involving 57 cognitively healthy older adults has found that those who showed decreased memory performance two years later (20 of the 57) had higher baseline levels of phosphorylated tau231 in the cerebrospinal fluid, and more atrophy in the medial

Midlife hypertension has been confirmed as a risk factor for the development of dementia in late life, but there have been conflicting findings about the role of late-life hypertension. Now a five-year study involving 990 older adults (average age 83) with cognitive impairment but no dementia, has found that dementia developed at around the same rate among participants with and without hypertension, among those with memory dysfunction alone and those with both memory and executive dysfunction.

By following 597 Alzheimer’s patients over 15 years, researchers have determined that a simple progression rate can be calculated at the initial visit, using symptom onset and present performance, and that this can reliably identify slow, intermediate and rapid progression.

A survey of more than 100 studies involving PIB-PET, a diagnostic tool that involves injecting a radiotracer called Pittsburgh compound B into the brain via the bloodstream, and imaging the brain with positron emission tomography (PET), has confirmed its sensitivity in detecting amyloid-beta protein plaques. The tool is not yet commercially available.

Data from 330 participants in The 90+ Study, of whom 70% were women, has revealed an overall annual incidence rate of 18.2% for dementia, rising from 12.7% per year in the 90-94 age group, to 21.2% in the 95-99 age group and 40.7% per year in the 100+ age group. 60% of the cases were attributed to Alzheimer's disease, 22%

A new test has been developed that measures amyloid-beta oligomers in the cerebrospinal fluid, promising a reliable means of early diagnosis.

A computerized self test (CST) has been developed that is 96% accurate in diagnosing Alzheimer’s and MCI-A (compared to 71% for the MMSE and 69% for the Mini-Cognitive — tests currently in use).

Both diabetes and clinical depression are known to be risk factors for dementia. Now a study that tracked nearly 4000 diabetics over 5 years has found having both increased the risk 2.7-fold. Nearly 8% of the diabetics with major depression (36 of 455) developed dementia over the five years, compared to 4.8% of those with diabetes alone (163 of 3382). Those who developed dementia within 2 years of being diagnosed with depression were excluded. Depression is common among people who have diabetes.

A brain scanning study using Pittsburgh Compound B, involving 42 healthy individuals (aged 50-80), of whom 14 had mothers who developed Alzheimer's, 14 had fathers with Alzheimer's, and 14 had no family history of the disease, has found that those with a maternal history had 15% more amyloid-beta plaques than those with a paternal history, and 20% more than those with no fam

Data from over 900 community-dwelling older adults participating in the Rush Memory and Aging Project has found that greater purpose in life was associated with a substantially reduced risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, as well as a reduced risk of mild cognitive impairment and a slower rate of cognitive decline. Specifically, those scoring in the top 10% of a purpose in life measure (4.2 out of 5) were approximately 2.4 times more likely to remain free of Alzheimer's disease than individuals in the bottom 10% (score of 3.0).

An analysis technique using artificial neural networks has revealed that the most important factors for predicting whether amnestic mild cognitive impairment (MCI-A) would develop into Alzheimer’s within 2 years were hyperglycemia, female gender and having the APOE4 gene (in that order). These were followed by the scores on attentional and short memory tests.

Data from 625 elderly Americans, followed for an average of 8.5 years, has revealed that those with very good or excellent vision at the beginning of the study had a 63% reduced risk of dementia over the study period. Those with poorer vision who did not visit an ophthalmologist had a 9.5-fold increased risk of Alzheimer disease and a 5-fold increased risk of cognitively impaired but no dementia. For the very-old (90+), 78% who maintained normal cognition had received at least one previous eye procedure compared with 51.7% of those with Alzheimer disease.

While everyone agrees that amyloid-beta protein is part of the problem, not everyone agrees that amyloid plaques are the cause (or one of them) of Alzheimer’s. Other forms of amyloid-beta have been pointed to, including floating clumps called oligomers or ADDLs. A new study, using mice engineered to form only these oligomers, and never any plaques, throughout their lives, provides more support for this theory.

A few months ago, I reported on an exciting finding that rapamycin, a drug currently used in transplant patients, improved memory in Alzheimer's mice.

The American Academy of Neurology has updated its guidelines on when people with dementia should stop driving. While the guidelines point out that this decision is a complex one that should be made by a doctor using the Clinical Dementia Rating scale, they also supported caregivers’ instincts, which have been found to often be correct. For caregivers and family members, the following warning signs are identified:

Another gene has been identified that appears to increase risk of Alzheimer’s. The gene, MTHFD1L, is located on chromosome six. Comparison of the genomes of 2,269 people with late-onset Alzheimer's disease and 3,107 people without the disease found those with a particular variation in this gene were almost twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's disease as those people without the variation.

The Phase II clinical trial of a treatment using naturally occurring antibodies (IGIV) has achieved significantly lower rates of ventricular enlargement (6.7% vs 12.7% per year) and less whole-brain atrophy (1.6% vs 2.2% per year) than control subjects who initially received placebo. The trial ran for 18 months and involved 24 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease, of whom 16 received IGIV once or twice a month for the whole period, and 8 received a placebo for the first 6 months.