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Forgetfulness link to Alzheimer's

30th June 2006

Many people accept forgetfulness as just a sign of getting older - but so-called senior moments, like forgetting a recent conversation, may be a sign of the process that can lead to Alzheimer's disease, research suggests.

US scientists examined the brains of 134 older people who had appeared mentally sharp, apart from some subtle forgetfulness. The study, published in the journal Neurology, found more than a third were riddled with the protein clumps associated with Alzheimer's.

Scientists are trying to identify the earliest point in the process that leads to Alzheimer's, as it is thought that treatment is most likely to be effective if it is given at the earliest possible stage.

Most people had assumed that minor episodes of forgetfulness are nothing to worry about. The researchers found the brains of people in the study showed levels of deterioration similar to those found in patients with severe Alzheimer's.

Lead researcher Dr David Bennett, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, said the findings suggested some people were able to compensate for the damage much more successfully than others.

Dr Bennett believes high levels of education may help to preserve brain function because it encourages more connections between brain cells.

Dr Carol Lippa, director of the memory disorders programme at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, said the study questioned the widely held assumption that minor memory lapses in older adults were normal.

She said the findings seemed to back the theory that it was important to keep the brain as active as possible.

The Alzheimer’s Trust are investigating other ways to diagnose Alzheimer's at an earlier stage, including possible blood or urine tests.

 

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Article Information

Title: Forgetfulness link to Alzheimer's
Author: Chris May
Article Id: 443
Date Added: 30th Jun 2006

Sources

BBC News

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