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Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College have developed a computer program that has tracked the manner in which different forms of dementia spread within a human brain. They say their mathematical model can be used to predict where and approximately when an individual patient's brain will suffer from the spread, neuron to neuron, of "prion-like" toxic proteins -- a process they say underlies all forms of dementia.
..."This could allow neurologists to predict what the patient's neuroanatomic and associated cognitive state will be at any given point in the future. They could tell whether and when the patient will develop speech impediments, memory loss, behavioral peculiarities, and so on," he says. "Knowledge of what the future holds will allow patients to make informed choices regarding their lifestyle and therapeutic interventions.
Autopsy studies suggest that plaques and tangles may be present in the brain without causing symptoms of cognitive decline unless the brain also shows evidence of vascular disease. Many experts believe that controlling cardiovascular risk factors may be the most cost-effective and helpful approach to protecting brain health.
...Alzheimer’s researchers have also known that about 10% to 20% of patients who show evidence of amyloid on autopsy never exhibit signs of dementia or cognitive decline, Yaffe’s team thought the amyloid blood test could help explain this puzzling result. The most popular theory involves something called cognitive reserve: the idea is that people with more cognitive reserve are better able to compensate for the loss of nerves to amyloid, and can continue to function without signs of the disease even while it is ravaging their brain.
Cognitive reserve is still an undefined concept, but it is generally thought to involve everything from having a larger brain (and therefore more neural connections to keep it going) to maintaining cognitive networks by continually engaging them in learning new things.
To test this idea, Yaffe further stratified her study group by education and literacy, two commonly accepted ways of measuring cognitive reserve. It turned out that among those with low levels of amyloid in the blood, participants with higher education (more than a high school diploma) or at least a sixth-grade level of literacy were able to compensate, and experienced half the drop in cognitive function scores as those with lower education and less literacy.
That finding gives Yaffe hope that in coming years, early tests, including one for amyloid in the blood, could identify people at high risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease well before their first cognitive symptoms emerge. These individuals could then get a head start in using interventions that could treat or even prevent their disease. At the moment, no such medical therapies exist, but there is evidence that people with denser networks of friends and family, as well as those who engage their minds by learning new skills or a new language or by playing card games, are able to hold back mental decline better than those who do not take advantage of these opportunities.
Originally posted by justsaying
Dementia is a normal part of the aging process...
My concern with these tests that analyze cognitive decline is whether this information goes into the medical database and then insurance companies can use that information to decline services or worse.