Research On Alzheimers Continues
Alzheimers treatment can help improve the quality of life for people with the disease and slow its progress but the quest for new treatments continues worldwide.
The aim is to develop medications that target the brain changes that Alzheimers causes, but more research funding is needed to achieve that goal.
You can review the Alzheimers Associations Treatment Horizon webpage for more information about treatment of the disease.
What changes have you witnessed in a loved one going through the stages of Alzheimers? What can you tell others to help them cope through these stages? Wed like to hear your stories and suggestions in the comments below.
The Dementia Brain Tour
The brain is incredibly complex and this section of our site contains a lot of information about how the brain is thought to function. For more about how the brain works and the effects of dementia, see our set of videos below.
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What Part Of The Brain Is Most Damaged By Alzheimers Disease
The most damage is done to the hippocampus and the cortex. The hippocampus is responsible for memory, learning, and orientation. The cortex is responsible for thinking, reasoning, and speaking.
Since the hippocampus is responsible for learning new information, a person with Alzheimers may have trouble learning or remembering information.
They may also have difficulty thinking abstractly or tracking conversations. They often lose their orientation to time and place and can get confused about who they are and where they are.
In the later stages of the disease, they may no longer be able to speak or understand language.
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The Area Of The Brain Where Alzheimers Begins
A study, published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, has revealed the location in the brain where Alzheimers begins.
Researchers from the University of Southern California conducted the study, and they believe that Alzheimers first strikes a vulnerable part of the brain called the locus coeruleus. The locus coeruleus may show damage decades before people begin to show symptoms of the disease, as early as the mid-twenties for some people.
The area of the brain is located near the base of the brain stem and releases norepinephrine, which is a chemical released to regulate attention, cognition, heart rate and memory. Other studies have found that norepinephrine can help protect brain cells from inflammation. Researchers found that this part of the brain is the first to show build of the toxic tau protein, a hallmark characteristic of the disease.
Dementia With Lewy Bodies
The brain of a person with dementia with Lewy bodies often shows less overall shrinkage than the brain of someone with Alzheimer’s or FTD. Instead, tiny deposits of protein are seen in the cerebral cortex, limbic system and brain stem.
In DLB, early damage is seen in the visual pathways and – in some studies – also in the frontal lobes. This may explain why problems with vision and attention are common early symptoms of DLB.
Similarly, Lewy bodies in the brain stem may be linked to the problems with movement, as also seen in Parkinson’s disease.
Dementia Connect support line
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How Do People Know They Have It
The first sign of Alzheimer disease is an ongoing pattern of forgetting things. This starts to affect a person’s daily life. He or she may forget where the grocery store is or the names of family and friends. This stage may last for some time or get worse quickly, causing more severe memory loss and forgetfulness.
What Increases Your Risk
Certain things make getting a disease more likely. These are called risk factors. Risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease include:
- Getting older. This is the main risk factor. People rarely have dementia before age 60.
- A family history of Alzheimer’s disease, especially if one or more of your parents or siblings has the disease.
- The presence of the apolipoprotein E-4 gene.
- Having Down syndrome.
- Injuries to the brain, especially more than one injury that caused you to pass out
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What Happens In Alzheimer Disease
You probably know that your brain works by sending signals. Chemical messengers, called neurotransmitters , allow brain cells to talk to each other. But a person with Alzheimer disease has lower amounts of neurotransmitters.
People with Alzheimer disease also develop deposits of stuff that prevent the cells from working properly. When this happens, the cells can’t send the right signals to other parts of the brain. Over time, brain cells affected by Alzheimer disease also begin to shrink and die.
Imaging And Other Tests
- Brain imaging tests, such as a CT head scan or an MRI of the head.
- A lumbar puncture to test for certain proteins in the spinal fluid.
- An electroencephalogram, or EEG.
- Brain imaging studies, such as positron emission tomography or single photon emission tomography .
In some cases, examining the brain after death is done if the family wants to confirm that the person had Alzheimer’s disease.
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Who Has Alzheimers Disease
- In 2020, as many as 5.8 million Americans were living with Alzheimers disease.1
- Younger people may get Alzheimers disease, but it is less common.
- The number of people living with the disease doubles every 5 years beyond age 65.
- This number is projected to nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060.1
- Symptoms of the disease can first appear after age 60, and the risk increases with age.
The Basics Of Alzheimers Disease
Scientists are conducting studies to learn more about plaques, tangles, and other biological features of Alzheimers disease. Advances in brain imaging techniques allow researchers to see the development and spread of abnormal amyloid and tau proteins in the living brain, as well as changes in brain structure and function. Scientists are also exploring the very earliest steps in the disease process by studying changes in the brain and body fluids that can be detected years before Alzheimers symptoms appear. Findings from these studies will help in understanding the causes of Alzheimers and make diagnosis easier.
One of the great mysteries of Alzheimers disease is why it largely affects older adults. Research on normal brain aging is exploring this question. For example, scientists are learning how age-related changes in the brain may harm neurons and affect other types of brain cells to contribute to Alzheimers damage. These age-related changes include atrophy of certain parts of the brain, inflammation, blood vessel damage, production of unstable molecules called free radicals, and mitochondrial dysfunction .
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How Is Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosed
Your doctor will ask about your past health and do a physical exam. He or she may ask you to do some simple things that test your memory and other mental skills. Your doctor may also check how well you can do daily tasks.
The exam usually includes blood tests to look for another cause of your problems. You may have tests such as CT scans and MRI scans, which look at your brain. By themselves, these tests can’t show for sure whether you have Alzheimer’s.
What To Do If You Suspect Alzheimers Disease
Getting checked by your healthcare provider can help determine if the symptoms you are experiencing are related to Alzheimers disease, or a more treatable conditions such as a vitamin deficiency or a side effect from medication. Early and accurate diagnosis also provides opportunities for you and your family to consider financial planning, develop advance directives, enroll in clinical trials, and anticipate care needs.
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What Causes Alzheimers Disease
In recent years, scientists have made tremendous progress in better understanding Alzheimers and the momentum continues to grow. Still, scientists dont yet fully understand what causes Alzheimers disease in most people. In people with early-onset Alzheimers, a genetic mutation may be the cause. Late-onset Alzheimers arises from a complex series of brain changes that may occur over decades. The causes probably include a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. The importance of any one of these factors in increasing or decreasing the risk of developing Alzheimers may differ from person to person.
What To Think About
An important part of treatment is finding and treating other medical problems the person may have.
- Depression occurs in nearly half of people with Alzheimer’s disease, especially those in the early stage of the disease. Helping them get treatment for depression can help them to do better with the abilities they still have.
- Hearing and vision loss, thyroid problems, kidney problems, and other conditions are common in older adults and may make Alzheimer’s worse. Treating these problems can improve quality of life and ease the burden on the caregiver.
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What Happens If Someone Got Alzheimer s Disease Does It Cause Your Brain Not Functioning Or Does It Kill The Brain Cells
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Tangles And Cell Death
In normal brain tissue, a protein called tau stabilizes microtubules. Microtubules are key parts of cell structure.
In a diseased brain, protein strands, or threads, become tangled. As a result, the brain system of transporting cell nutrients along parallel structures which can be compared to railroad tracks falls apart.
Without these critical nutrients, brain cells die.
Memory and thinking depend on the transmission of signals across 100 billion neurons in the brain.
AD interferes with this cell signal transmission. It also affects the activity of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.
The scrambled chemistry produces flawed signaling, so the brains messages are lost. This impacts the ability to learn, remember, and communicate.
Microglia are a type of cell that initiate immune responses in the brain and spinal cord. When AD is present, microglia interpret the beta-amyloid plaque as cell injury.
The microglia go into overdrive, stimulating inflammation that further damages brain cells.
Some AD research focuses on how this inflammatory response can be reduced or controlled.
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What Causes Alzheimer Disease
Lots of research is being done to find out more about the causes of Alzheimer disease. There is no one reason why people get it. Older people are more likely to get it, and the risk increases the older the person gets. In other words, an 85-year-old is more likely to get it than a 65-year-old. And women are more likely to get it than men.
Researchers also think genes handed down from family members can make a person more likely to get Alzheimer disease. But that doesn’t mean everyone related to someone who has it will get the disease. Other things may make it more likely that someone will get the disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Down syndrome, or having a head injury.
On the positive side, researchers believe exercise, a healthy diet, and taking steps to keep your mind active may help delay the start of Alzheimer disease.
The Brain With Alzheimers Dementia
When someone is affected by Alzheimers disease, a serious degeneration of the brain takes place, particularly in the hippocampus, the entorhinal cortex, the neocortex , the basal nucleus, the locus coeruleus, and the raphe nuclei.
But what is all of this? These are different areas of the brain that, explained in the simplest way possible, are involved in the process of learning, memory, and emotional regulation. As you can see, all of these functions are strongly affected in patients with Alzheimers.
And how do these areas degenerate? Well, with the development of amyloid or starchy plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. However, before explaining what these plaques and tangles are, we have to know the parts of a neuron:
- Soma: this is the body of the neuron, where its nucleus is located and where the information that each neuron receives from others around it is stored.
- Axon: this is the largest projection that comes off of the soma and serves the purpose of sending information from one neuron to others.
- Dendrites: these are the small extensions that come off the body of the neuron and receive information from other neurons.
The amyloid plaques are deposits that are located outside of brain cells, made up of a nucleus whose protein is called amyloid-beta. These deposits are surrounded by axons and dendrites that are degenerating. This degeneration process is natural in every human brain it is not pathological.
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How The Body Shuts Down
As your body declines it raises the risk for other health problems.
- Infections may develop as your immune system begins to fail.
- Pneumonia can set in, especially if you inhale food or drinks by accident.
- Injuries from falls are more likely to happen.
It’s best to have conversations early on about how you’d like to be cared for. These conversations can be hard, but having a plan can make it easier for you and your family.
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What Is Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, a loss of brain function that affects memory, thinking, language, judgment and behavior. In Alzheimer’s disease, large numbers of neurons stop functioning, lose connections with other neurons, and die.
Irreversible and progressive, Alzheimer’s disease slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks of daily living.
The stages of the disease typically progress from mild to moderate to severe. Symptoms usually develop slowly and gradually worsen over a number of years however, progression and symptoms vary from person to person. The first symptom of Alzheimer’s disease usually appears as forgetfulness.
Mild cognitive impairment is a stage between normal forgetfulness due to aging and the development of Alzheimer’s disease. People with MCI have mild problems with thinking and memory that do not interfere with everyday activities. Not everyone with MCI develops Alzheimer’s disease.
Other early symptoms of Alzheimer’s include language problems, difficulty performing tasks that require thought, personality changes and loss of social skills.
People with severe Alzheimer’s disease are unable to recognize family members or understand language.
What Happens To My Brain When I Have Alzheimer’s
02 February, 2017
Sad as it is to say, we are all used to hearing about different kinds of dementia, but we often do not receive clear explanations of what is happening to a brain suffering from it. For that reason, the goal of this article is to explain,in the simplest way possible, what is happening to a brain that has been diagnosed with Alzheimers disease.
Moreover, I will include one of the most recent and most hoped for advances in terms of treating . This advance, which was recently published by the journal Nature, is so important that its results may change the course of Alzheimers disease as we know it.
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Facts About Alzheimer Disease
Alzheimer disease is becoming more common as the general population gets older and lives longer. Alzheimer disease usually affects people older than 65. A small number of people have early-onset Alzheimer disease, which starts when they are in their 30s or 40s.
People live for an average of 8 years after their symptoms appear. But the disease can progress quickly in some people and slowly in others. Some people live as long as 20 years with the disease.
No one knows what causes Alzheimer disease. Genes, environment, lifestyle, and overall health may all play a role.
The Effects Of Alzheimer’s On The Brain
Heather Mercer is native to Northwest Ohio and graduated from Loma Linda University with two doctorate degrees . She is currently a professor at Owens Community College, as well as a fact-checker for Verywell Health. She has gained experience in a variety of settings, ranging from corporate wellness and preventive medicine, to mental health, chronic disease, and end-of-life care.
Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative disease of the brain. Understanding how the anatomy of the Alzheimer’s brain differs from a normal brain gives us insight. It can help us cope better with the changes that happen to our loved ones as a result of this debilitating disease.
In Alzheimer’s disease, the appearance of the Alzheimer’s affected brain is very different to a normal brain. The cerebral cortex atrophies. That means that this area of the brain shrinks and this shrinkage is dramatically different from the cerebral cortex of a normal brain. The cerebral cortex is the outer surface of the brain. It is responsible for all intellectual functioning. There are two major changes that can be observed in the brain using magnetic resonance imaging :
- The amount of brain substance in the folds of the brain is decreased
- The spaces in the folds of the brain are grossly enlarged.
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