Category Archives: Memory & The Brain

Dementia Types

Dementia is not defined as a disease, but rather many symptoms that result from a neurological impairment which can be caused by a number of different diseases. There are different stages of dementia. Mild or early stages of dementia are occasionally confused with pseudo-dementia, which usually proves to be depression.

The importance of this is that depression is reversible and dementia generally is not curable. Early detection of neurological diseases or problems in the nervous system are pivotal in controlling the symptoms of dementia. Family members and friends can also play a crucial role in assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of dementia types.

Often the onset of dementia is slow and initial symptoms may be overlooked or dismissed as personality quirks or changes. Keeping notes of actions or behaviors that seem to be peculiar may help in early detection.
What Are the Symptoms?
·         Memory loss seems to be the first and often most noticeable characteristic.
·         Depression often occurs and there can be difficulty in controlling moods.
·         At times there is no recognition of familiar faces or locations.
·         Inability to retain new information.
·         Hallucinations.
·         Suspicion and paranoia.

The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia affects the following areas of the brain: language, memory, decision-making, and learning. Dementia types vary because different diseases affect certain areas of the brain. There are approximately fifty other causes of dementia, two of which are Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease. Illnesses that do not originate in the brain, such as kidney disease, can also lead to the development of dementia.

What is the Treatment?

The type of treatment for all dementia types greatly depends on the stage of the disease and occasionally what the origin is the disease is.
·         A well-balanced diet will improve or maintain an overall healthy lifestyle. There is little evidence to suggest any particular foods that aid in improvement for specific symptoms of dementia, but will contribute to better health.
·         Occasionally medication is prescribed to those patients struggling with sleep disorders, depression, or anxiety.
·         Monitoring diabetes, blood pressure, and cholesterol all contribute to minimizing symptoms of dementia.
·         Tools for remembering simple facts and activities are beneficial for dementia patients such as calendars, to-do lists, and instructional notes distributed throughout an individuals home.  

The diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can help minimize progressive symptoms of dementia. Medications can be prescribed to control development of further Alzheimer’s symptoms, which in turn protect those areas of the brain and minimize the contributions toward dementia. While dementia is related to parts of the brain, nervous system diseases also supply symptoms quite similar to those of dementia. The central nervous system controls areas such as depression, sleeping, and thinking, which all can be adverse symptoms of multiple dementia types.

About the Author:
Ian Pennington is an accomplished niche website developer and author. To learn more about Dementia Types, please visit Alzheimer’s Treatments Today for current articles and discussions.
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Senior Moments: Staved off through education?

“Senior moments”, as popularly described by many elderly, and as “cognitive decline” by the medical and mental health community, may be much more preventable than many realize.  Two surveys conducted in 1993 and 2002 “support the idea that more education is protective against cognitive decline” according to Dr. Kenneth M. Langa, as reported to Reuters health. 

In this important “senior moment” research, Dr. Langa of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, found that between the 1993 and 2002 surveys there was a nearly 30% decline in cognitive impairment while the average education level rose by 1 year between the studies conducted approximately a decade apart. 

Researchers considered demographic, lifestyle and medical information as well as various cognitive measures such as knowledge, language, orientation, mental processing, and memory among participants in the Health and Retirement Study which had 7406 participants in the 1983 study and 7104 in the 2002 survey.  Dr. Langa reported in the journal of Alzheimer’s and Dementia that the average age of the two groups was 78 years old, was primarily white, 40% male, and about half were living with their spouse. 

“Senior moments” research results: 

Researchers found that approximately 12.2% of the participants had cognitive impairment in 1993.  By 2002, the rates of these “senior moments” or cognitive decline, slipped to a rate of 8.7%.  Interestingly enough, the 2002 respondents also reported significantly greater net worth than the 1993 respondents, in addition to achieving more education.  Dr. Langa stated in an interview with Reuter’s Health, that “higher levels of wealth likely lead to more or better educational opportunities and better access to health care.” 

Investigators also found that among individuals who had moderate to severe cognitive impairment, there was also a higher mortality rate among individuals in the 2002 study.  The implication may be that while education may be protective, when it occurs the cognitive decline may be more severe and carry a greater risk of death. 

The conclusion reached by some experts as a result of this research is that improvements in education and mental stimulation during leisure and work activities may have an impact upon individual’s health, possibly reducing the incidence and severity of these “senior moments”.  Obviously, research will need to continue in order to come to more conclusive analysis about the impact of mental stimulation on cognitive impairment or what many famously refer to as “senior moments”.  

Information adapted from Alzheimer’s and Dementia, online February 20, 2008

Additional Information and webpage by Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist    


Untangling the Alzheimer’s Brain 

Alzheimer’s is a debilitating disease where circuits in the brain literally get ‘tangled up’ and cause cognitive problems. Research into the causes and possible treatments for Alzheimer’s is intensive and beginning to provide rays of hope for families hit with this disorder.

The Triple Threat

One tool that researchers have used extensively is a mouse model, which is genetically destined to get Alzheimer’s disease due to three separate genes. There are several paths to Alzheimer’s, but having a gene that increases your risk for getting the disease does not guarantee you will get it. It still depends on many lifestyle factors, including your physical activity, nutrition and level of physical health. However, the Alzheimer’s mouse model, called the 3xTg-AD mouse, has the deck stacked against it with multiple genes increasing its risk and almost guaranteeing disease.

A couple of recent studies used these mice to look at the role of some specific dietary factors in helping or hurting the mice’s chances. The first study looked at low omega-3 to omega-6 ratios in the context of a low or high fat diet. The second study used vitamin B3 (nicotinamide) to try and counter some of the cognitive problems the mice develop as Alzheimer’s progresses.

Fish for Brains

Julien et al. from Lavel University in Quebec published a study in the Neurobiology of Aging, in which they reported a double whammy of low omega-3s and high fat that seems to make the genetically susceptible mice fair worse. Unfortunately, the diet they discovered as further increasing Alzheimer’s risk is not that different from what most westerners are eating.

Many folks in North America eat too much saturated fat and not enough good omega-3 fat from fish. When researchers gave this kind of diet to the Alzheimer’s mice, the brains of the mice had several increased markers of Alzheimer’s pathology. In teasing out the dietary problems, researchers found that either a high fat diet or a diet low in omega-3s, caused problems. When they combined the two, feeding low omega-3s in the context of a high fat diet, those problems compounded.

These data are consistent with previous observational studies in humans that show people who eat less omega-3s have increased rates of Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, studies have not shown success of using omega-3 supplementation to treat Alzheimer’s once it takes hold. However, there has been some success in treating early mild dementia. These studies, along with the new data from mice suggest that we should get plenty of omega-3s into our diet earlier to help drive down the risk of Alzheimer’s later.

Vitamin B3 gets an A

Still, there may be good news on the Horizon for those who are already heading down the Alzheimer’s road. Green et. al. from UC-Irvine published a study in the Journal of Neuroscience that demonstrated some remarkable effects of vitamin B3 at protecting the genetically prone mice from getting Alzheimer’s.

Now, before you rush out and start dosing up, realize this is a preliminary study that used whopping amounts of vitamin B3. Researchers fed mice at about 100 times the RDA and at about 10 times doses previously shown to cause some toxicity in humans. Still, the study is promising because it helps reveal some ways in which we might approach preventing Alzheimer’s disease in high-risk populations.

Researchers dosed up the 3xTg-AD mice with large amounts of nicotinamide, an active form of vitamin B3, in their drinking water. These mice performed as well as normal mice on many memory and other cognitive tests. Conversely, the Alzheimer’s prone mice that didn’t get the vitamin B3 showed the expected cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s.

Food Matters

The cool thing about both of these studies is that they open the door for more research using nutritional approaches to treat and prevent Alzheimer’s disease. It’s clear that genetics plays a role in some, but not all cases of dementia. But it’s also clear that we don’t have to accept our genetic predispositions in many cases. It is not fate. They way we choose to live our lives, including what we choose to eat, will play a large role in our cognitive future.

Journal of Neuroscience (2008), 28(45): 11500-11510.
Neurobiology of Aging (2008), In Press. 

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About the Author:
Dr. Simon Evans holds a PhD in molecular biology with 15 years research and teaching experience in neuroscience and a current faculty position in the Psychiatry Department at the University of Michigan. He is a member of the Society for Neuroscience, the American Society for Nutrition and the Michigan Metabolomics and Obesity Center; with expertise in neurochemistry and nutrition. He is the author of dozens of scientific publications on stress, depression and brain function as well as the acclaimed book, BrainFit for Life, published in the Spring of 2008.

Dr. Evans also holds a national coaching license from the United States Soccer Federation and over two decades coaching experience, which enables him to help people find and use their full potential. Dr. Evans has merged his interests in brain function, health, and performance coaching into public seminars and workshops designed to educate audiences about brain health and motivate them to take action to achieve it.
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People With Alzheimer’s Disease – Helpful Tips For Encouraging Them to Remain Active  

Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating condition that affects approximately 1-2% of the general population. It is one of several conditions that are called dementias, accounting for about 50% of reported cases of dementias.
While the symptoms and outcomes of Alzheimer’s disease are very serious, the assumption that people with the disease can no longer function is incorrect and unfair. People in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s are certainly very limited, but many other people can still be active with a little help from family or friends.

Your ability to help a loved one or friend with Alzheimer’s disease be as active as possible rests with the approach you take with her. By following these steps, you can greatly enhance your chances of success.

1. Keep it simple – break tasks such as cooking or performing personal hygiene down into specific milestones that can be followed in order. For example, telling someone with Alzheimer’s to cook an omelet will be overwhelming to her and will probably not succeed while instructing the person to perform each specific task that goes into making the omelet will be easier to follow and less stressful.

2. Be calm and reassuring – people with Alzheimer’s disease can be very sensitive to the feelings of others and will react negatively to irritation or impatience.

3. Familiarity and repetition – do not give up if the person does not succeed with the task or activity the first time. Repeating the task over time will often improve her ability to complete it successfully.

4. Do not argue or attempt to convince – if the person is not receptive to a task, do not push her too hard to do it. At this point, it is best to redirect her to something more familiar and safer and then try again with the original task at a later time.

5. Plan the activities – spontaneity is not a good approach to take with someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Plan activities carefully and minimize interruptions and surprises.

6. Use visuals to stimulate and reinforce activities – people with Alzheimer’s react positively to visual prompts. Posting signs around the home that provide instructions such as “brush teeth” or “wash face” can be very helpful. Also, a collage or scrap book of pictures can help to stimulate memories and turn into an enjoyable activity.

There are a variety of activities that people with Alzheimer’s disease can enjoy. Much of it depends on the individual’s interests and level of functioning, and on the approach that is taken to encourage her to participate. Remember, process is more important than the outcome when encouraging people with Alzheimer’s to participate in activities. A kind, gentle, and supportive approach is usually far more successful than placing high expectations and providing negative feedback.

About the Author:
Steve Watson has provided assistance to seniors and their families for over 8 years. He owns a home health agency in Tallahassee, Florida called Comfort Keepers that provides home health and companion care for seniors who want to remain in their own homes and be as independent as possible.

Steve has his PhD from the University of Georgia in Public Administration and Master’s in Counseling from the University of Delaware. He received his certification as a Care Manager with specialization in geriatric issues this year.

If you are interested in learning more about how to help an elderly parent or other loved one remain active and healthy, check out this web site where you can, among other things, subscribe to an informative newsletter.
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The Best Friend Approach to Alzheimer’s

When I began to understand the reality of caring for my mother, who has an Alzheimer’s dementia, I was, like everyone else, unsure and filled with questions about how to ‘be’ with her. I was very uncomfortable when she endlessly repeated stories, or mixed up the characters in them. And when the memory of my father began to fade, to be replaced by childhood memories, I was shocked, disoriented, and greatly saddened.

I felt guilty about feeling bored, inadequate in the extreme (where was my wise, earthy, intuitive mother to help me figure this out?). But mostly I had questions: Do I gently correct her, bring her back to the here and now, as one of my sister’s opined? Would this strengthen her grip on “reality”, stimulate her mind and delay her decline? My instinct was let it go, to go along with wherever her story was leading her, but perhaps this was a disservice, perhaps she needed me to anchor her in this world?

I can’t say I ever really got answers that satisfied me, so I was left to follow my intuition – which I have only just found confirmed in The Best Friends Approach to Eldercare, by Virginia Bell and David Troxel. These compassionate authors have worked for many years with long term care of people with Alzheimer’s. The idea behind their approach is that what parents – or other elders – need most is simply a best friend, someone who is understanding, positive, and reassuring. Someone who doesn’t judge them, correct them, tell them what to do or how to think or behave.

In discovering this so-called method, I’ve felt very validated. I realize that I became conflicted when I looked at my mother through the lens of a disease. But when I saw her simply as my mom, I took her as I found her, and extended to her the same simple human kindness I would to any friend. I don’t lecture, correct or try to ‘improve’ her, my job is to connect with her, and to meet and support her where she is.

Here are a few of the basic principles behind the Best Friend’s approach.

Go With the Flow – Caring for your parent is about making them happy, safe, and comfortable. If your father says, “I’m eating breakfast now,’ it might be tempting to note that it’s dinnertime in the hopes of making him less confused, but it’s not as helpful as simply saying, “Yum, it smells good.” Just go with the flow and enter their world.

Let Go of Perfectionism
– Choose activities your parent will enjoy and don’t worry whether they’re done correctly. If s/he can’t follow the rules of a card game anymore, try sorting the cards into suits and colors. If s/he likes helping around the house, give him or her a concrete task to do, like folding laundry. It doesn’t matter if it’s done perfectly. What matters is that your parent is having fun and feels useful.

Above All Else, Show Respect – Remember that yours is an adult relationship that consists of adult activities and communication. Even if your parent has Alzheimer’s, there’s no need to play games meant for kids or to speak as if they’re children. Foster their dignity above all else.

About the Author:

Kathleen Daniel, MS, L.Ac. writes about change and transition from the inside out, combining insights and experience from her lifelong yoga practice with her work as an acupuncturist, organizational consultant, educator, and life and leadership coach. An alumnus of Johns Hopkins Women’s Leadership program, she also leads active retreats for reflection and renewal for women. Website:
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Alzheimer’s Treatment: Experimental Therapies and Alternative Treatments 

Alzheimer’s treatment: Experimental therapies 

Although the reason is not clear, enrollment in clinical trials frequently seems to delay the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.  Some experts state that there could be several explanations for this effect. It could be due to the direct effect of the drug being studied or to improved coping skills that caregivers receive from contact with medical personnel during the study.  Whatever the reason for the delay in the progression of the disease, it is believed that Alzheimer’s disease patients receive more benefits for enrolling in clinical trials than most other medical conditions, since there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

The focus of research at this point in time is on delaying the onset of the disease.  The following are currently being researched in terms of their usefulness as preventive agents.  The following treatments are believed to hold hope for the future, although they are still regarded as highly experimental at the present time.

Anti-inflammatory drugs: 

Many experts consider the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to be showing some promise as preventive therapies.  These medications are commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. While medical researchers are not sure how they work, it is hypothesized that NSAIDs may possibly provide protection against inflammation associated with Alzheimer’s disease, or may have some effect on the delivery of blood to the brain.

Ginkgo biloba as an Alzheimer’s treatment: 

Although it is not clear how ginkgo biloba works, it has been found that patients taking this extract have sometimes had a slower decline in cognitive abilities then patients who received a placebo.  The American Academy of Neurology has concluded that although the evidence is relatively weak, some studies have found that some patients with other types of dementia (not Alzheimer’s disease) may benefit.  Ginkgo biloba is not regulated by the FDA and is therefore not considered a food supplement.  Also, it is important to note that when aspirin is taken at the same time as ginkgo biloba there may also be an increased risk in bleeding.