According to Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. All across America, including the Chicagoland area and the Northshore, 5.8 million people are living with Alzheimer’s. As experts continue their studies on dementia and Alzheimer’s, we are learning more about how dementia affects the brain physically.
The hallmark of a brain effected with Alzheimer’s and dementia are clusters of amyloid protein and tangled threads of tau protein. “A nice, healthy young brain has none of these plaques and tangles,” says Dr. R Scott Turner, director of the memory disorders program and professor of neurology at Georgetown University. As people with normal cognition age, these proteins do accumulate in their brains. However, those with dementia and Alzheimer’s develop more and more of these abnormal protein deposits as the disease progresses. The protein clusters and tangles interfere with brain cell functions and communication.
Alzheimer’s also affects the hippocampus, the part of the brain that’s involved in memory formation. “That’s why the first thing to go with Alzheimer’s is making new memory – old memories are fine,” explains Dr. Turner. MRI imaging of Alzheimer’s brains show shrinkage in the areas affecting language, memory and judgment, which includes the hippocampus.
Although, scientists are learning more about how the brain is affected by Alzheimer’s, there still is no definitive answer to what causes it. There are many factors that can contribute to dementia development, including genetics, which then leads to the question – how can one preserve their brain function? Some techniques that research has shown to be affective include computer-based brain games, social engagement, diet, and physical exercise.
To read more on research done on the differences between a normal brain and a brain with dementia, visit US News.
To find more resources on dementia care, visit us at www.DementiaHelpers.com.