People with dementia often lose their ability to communicate verbally with loved ones in later stages of the disease. But a Northwestern Medicine study, in collaboration with Institute for Therapy through the Arts (ITA), shows how that gap can be bridged with a new music intervention.
In the intervention — developed at ITA and called “Musical Bridges to Memory” — a live ensemble plays music from a patient’s youth such as songs from the musicals “Oklahoma” or “The Sound of Music.” This creates an emotional connection between a patient and their caregiver by allowing them to interact with the music together via singing, dancing and playing simple instruments, the study authors said.
The program also enhanced patients’ social engagement and reduced neuropsychiatric symptoms such as agitation, anxiety and depression in both patients and caregivers.
More than 6 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer’s disease.
The study is unusual because it targeted patients with dementia and their caregivers, said lead study author Dr. Borna Bonakdarpour. Most prior studies using music for dementia patients have focused only on the patients.
Findings open new avenue of research in memory loss
A new Northwestern Medicine study showed cognitive SuperAgers have resistance to the development of fibrous tangles in a brain region related to memory and which are known to be markers of Alzheimer’s disease.
The tangles are made of the tau protein which forms structures that transport nutrients within the nerve cell. These tangles disrupt the cell’s transport system, hampering communication within the neuron and preventing nutrients from performing their particular job within the cell. The end result of tangle formation is cell death.
“The results suggest resistance to age-related tau degeneration in the cortex may be one factor contributing to preserved memory in SuperAgers,” said lead study author Tamar Gefen, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Good news for those of us who can’t face the day without their morning flat white: a long-term study has revealed drinking higher amounts of coffee may make you less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
As part of the Australian Imaging, Biomarkers and Lifestyle Study of ageing, researchers from Edith Cowan University (ECU) investigated whether coffee intake affected the rate of cognitive decline of more than 200 Australians over a decade.
Lead investigator Dr. Samantha Gardener said results showed an association between coffee and several important markers related to Alzheimer’s disease.
“We found participants with no memory impairments and with higher coffee consumption at the start of the study had lower risk of transitioning to mild cognitive impairment — which often precedes Alzheimer’s disease — or developing Alzheimer’s disease over the course of the study,” she said.
New highly sensitive quantum sensors for the brain may in the future be able to identify brain diseases such as dementia, ALS and Parkinson’s, by spotting a slowing in the speed at which signals travel across the brain. The research findings from a paper led by University of Sussex quantum physicists are published in Scientific Reports journal.
The quantum scanners being developed by the scientists can detect the magnetic fields generated when neurons fire. Measuring moment-to-moment changes in the brain, they track the speed at which signals move across the brain. This time-element is important because it means a patient could be scanned twice several months apart to check whether the activity in their brain is slowing down. Such slowing can be a sign of Alzheimer’s or other diseases of the brain.
In this way, the technology introduces a new method to spot bio-markers of early health problems.
Aikaterini Gialopsou, a doctoral researcher in the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of Sussex and Brighton and Sussex Medical School is the lead author on the paper. She says of the discovery:
“We’ve shown for the first time that quantum sensors can produce highly accurate results in terms of both space and time. While other teams have shown the benefits in terms of locating signals in the brain, this is the first time that quantum sensors have proved to be so accurate in terms of the timing of signals too.
Being a senior citizen with a family tree containing both Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia, I read everything I can on the subject. Here is the latest from the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH).
Did you know that taking care of your heart can reduce your risk for memory and thinking problems? A review of medical research conducted by the Global Council on Brain Health recently showed a reduced risk of dementia with improved heart health. So, let’s review their major findings to learn how we can take better care of our hearts and brains. Continue reading →
While there is no known ‘silver bullet’ for Alzheimer’s disease it appears that there may be some ‘luck of the draw’ genetic variants that help.
A DNA study of over 10,000 people by University College of London (UCL) scientists has identified a class of gene variants that appear to protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
The findings, published in Annals of Human Genetics, suggest these naturally occurring gene variants reduce the functioning of proteins called tyrosine phosphatases, which are known to impair the activity of a cell signalling pathway known as PI3K/Akt/GSK-3β. This pathway is important for cell survival.
The research builds on previous studies in mice and rats, which suggested inhibiting the function of these proteins might be protective against Alzheimer’s disease, but this is the first time such an effect has been demonstrated in people.
Researchers believe the PI3K/Akt/GSK-3β signalling pathway could be a key target for therapeutic drugs and the findings also strengthen evidence that other genes could be linked to either elevated or reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
“These results are quite encouraging. It looks as though when naturally-occurring genetic variants reduce the activity of tyrosine phosphatases then this makes Alzheimer’s disease less likely to develop, suggesting that drugs which have the same effect might also be protective,” said the study’s lead author, Professor David Curtis (UCL Genetics Institute).
There is possible good news is the study of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers from Lund University, together with the Roche pharmaceutical company, have used a method to develop a new blood marker capable of detecting whether or not a person has Alzheimer’s disease. If the method is approved for clinical use, the researchers hope eventually to see it used as a diagnostic tool in primary healthcare. This autumn, they will start a trial in primary healthcare to test the technique.
Currently, a major support in the diagnostics of Alzheimer’s disease is the identification of abnormal accumulation of the substance beta-amyloid, which can be detected either in a spinal fluid sample or through brain imaging using a PET scanner. Continue reading →
Two major studies with promising antibodies have recently failed – possibly because they have been administered too late. A new very early-detection test gives rise to hope.
Using current techniques, Alzheimer’s disease, the most frequent cause of dementia, can only be detected once the typical plaques have formed in the brain. At this point, therapy seems no longer possible. However, the first changes caused by Alzheimer’s take place on the protein level up to 20 years sooner. A two-tier method developed at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) can help detect the disease at a much earlier stage. The researchers from Bochum published their report in the March 2019 edition of the journal “Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment and Disease Monitoring”.
“This has paved the way for early-stage therapy approaches, where the as yet inefficient drugs on which we had pinned our hopes may prove effective,” says Professor Klaus Gerwert from the Department of Biophysics at RUB.
As my family has had several cases of dementia, some in the form of Alzheimer’s, I am always captivated by tools for assessing risk as I am a senior citizen. This University of California San Diego School of Medicine study caught my eye.
Clinical trials to develop new therapeutic and preventive treatments for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are costly, complicated and often preclude persons most at risk of developing the degenerative neurological condition: Older individuals with less mobility and significant medical issues, both making it more difficult for them to participate in traditional, clinic-based assessments with trained personnel.
In a new paper, published this month in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia, a multi-institution team led by researchers at Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS) at University of California San Diego School of Medicine published results of a novel four-year, randomized clinical trial evaluating different home-based methods to assess cognitive function and decline in participants over the age of 75.
Almost 600 persons participated in the home-based assessment (HBA) study; all had been previously diagnosed as either possessing normal cognitive abilities or suffering from Mild Cognitive Impairment, a condition that often precedes AD. Continue reading →
A blood test for a protein could identify people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease a decade or more before symptoms, such as a decline in memory and thinking, emerge, as reported in Medical News Today.
This was what an international group of scientists concluded after evaluating the simple test that used blood samples from people with a rare form of Alzheimer’s disease that they had inherited.
The team included researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Tübingen, Germany.
The test looks for changes in levels of the neurofilament light chain (NfL) protein. The protein normally resides inside brain cells, or neurons, as part of their internal skeleton.
A research team led by Dr. Kim Innes, a professor in the West Virginia University School of Public Health, has found that a simple meditation or music listening program may alter certain biomarkers of cellular aging and Alzheimer’s Disease in older adults who are experiencing memory loss. Study findings, reported in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, also suggest these changes may be directly related to improvements in memory and cognition, sleep, mood, and quality of life.
Sixty older adults with subjective cognitive decline (SCD), a condition that may represent a preclinical stage of Alzheimer’s disease, participated in the randomized, clinical trial. While SCD has been linked to increased risk for dementia and associated with certain neuropathological changes implicated in Alzheimer’s disease development, including elevated brain levels of beta amyloid, this preclinical period may also provide a critical window for therapeutic intervention.
In this trial, each participant was randomly assigned to either a beginner meditation (Kirtan Kriya) or music listening program and asked to practice 12 minutes/day for 12 weeks. At baseline and 3 months, blood samples were collected. Two markers of cellular aging were measured: telomere length and telomerase activity. (Telomeres serve as protective caps on chromosomes; telomerase is an enzyme responsible for maintaining telomere length). Blood levels of specific beta-amyloid peptides commonly linked to Alzheimer’s Disease were also assessed. In addition, memory and cognitive function, stress, sleep, mood, and quality of life were measured. All participants were followed for a total of 6 months. Continue reading →
Studying DNA from more than 1.5 million people, an international team of researchers — led by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of California, San Francisco — has identified points of DNA that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and also heighten the risk for Alzheimer’s disease, according to an article in Neuroscience News.
Scientists have long been aware of connections between variations of the APOE gene, which is involved in cholesterol and lipid metabolism, and Alzheimer’s disease. That gene is known to double the risk for Alzheimer’s disease in some patients and increase risk by up to 12 times in others. But in the new study, the researchers identified other DNA points that also appear to be involved both in cardiovascular disease risk and the risk for Alzheimer’s. Continue reading →
With three cases of Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia in my family I have serious interest in all variations of cognitive impairment. Hence, this latest work from Washington University School of Medicine.
It may be possible in the future to screen patients for Alzheimer’s disease using an eye exam.
Using technology similar to what is found in many eye doctors’ offices, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have detected evidence suggesting Alzheimer’s in older patients who had no symptoms of the disease.
Their study, involving 30 patients, is published Aug. 23 in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology.Continue reading →
I have talked a lot about Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia over the past eight years, so when I ran across this explanation from the Mayo Clinic, I thought I would share it with you.
These terms are often used interchangeably, but they actually have very different meanings. Dementia is not a specific disease. It’s an overall term, sometimes referred to as an umbrella term, which describes a wide range of symptoms. These symptoms impact a person’s ability to perform everyday activities independently. Common symptoms include:
A decline in memory
Changes in thinking skills
Poor judgment and reasoning skills
Decreased focus and attention
Changes in language and communication skills
Alzheimer’s disease is one type of dementia, but it’s not the only one. There are many different types and causes of dementia, including:
A new study reports high sugar and fat based diets that lead to obesity, coupled with the normal aging process, may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. By my reckoning that means the older we get the more we need to pay attention to what we are eating and the amount we are exercising. Eat less; move more; live longer. For heaven’s sake, don’t wait till you are a senior to get on the exercise and good eating regime. Clearly, the earlier you start, the better of you are.
A new study suggests that when a high-fat, high-sugar diet that leads to obesity is paired with normal aging, it may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, researchers discovered that certain areas of the brain respond differently to risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s. The study is published in Physiological Reports.
Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, is a progressive brain disorder that leads to loss of cognitive skills and memory and causes significant changes in behavior. Aging is a significant risk factor for Alzheimer’s. Previous studies suggest that diet-related obesity is also associated with development of the disease.Continue reading →