Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Alzheimer’s Disease: Treatment Directions

Last year, Jef­frey Gonce, a Psy­chol­ogy teacher at Red Land High School (West Shore School Dis­trict, PA) asked his stu­dents to “com­plete a project describ­ing a recent brain (or genetic) study that affects behav­ior.” The stu­dents could opt to post their arti­cles online, and Jef­frey was kind enough to send us a link to read the results. We enjoyed read­ing them all, and pub­lished in our blog this beau­ti­ful essay, titled “Tis bet­ter to give than receive”, writ­ten by Alexan­dra, which  was sub­se­quently included in a num­ber of neu­ro­science an psy­chol­ogy blogs. Ear­lier this year we high­lighted this piece on Musi­cal train­ing as men­tal exer­cise for cog­ni­tive per­for­mance, writ­ten by Megan.

This quar­ter, Jef­frey also sent us his stu­dents’ essays, and we are going to rec­og­nize and pub­lish this great essay by high school stu­dent Kristin H.


Alzheimer’s Dis­ease

– By Kristin H.

Alzheimer’s is a dis­ease which causes peo­ple, gen­er­ally of an older age, to lose mem­ory and for­get how to accom­plish sim­ple tasks. Demen­tia is the dis­ease which Alzheimer’s is a part and about four mil­lion Amer­i­cans were diag­nosed with Alzheimer’s in 1999, a num­ber which is expected to grow (Alt­man 8–9). Demen­tia is an unspe­cific brain dis­ease com­monly asso­ci­ated with mem­ory loss and another seri­ous brain dys­func­tion. Demen­tia is an incur­able dis­ease (“Demen­tia”). A new drug treat­ment that replaces the enzyme miss­ing in an Alzheimer’s brain may be able to cure Alzheimer’s dis­ease in it’s late stages (Coghlan).

Rebecca Rupp says mem­ory allows peo­ple to “shape our char­ac­ters, build our careers, forge our rela­tion­ships, and (cre­ate the) irre­place­able his­to­ries of our­selves. With­out (mem­ory), we are hol­low per­sons, not only empty of a past, but lack­ing a foun­da­tion upon which to build the future” (Alt­man 27). In a brain affected by Alzheimer’s dis­ease, neu­rons, nerve cells, are unable to work prop­erly (Alt­man 29–30). Stud­ies have shown that Uch-L1, an enzyme which rids the brain of pro­tein, begins to dis­ap­pear as the pres­ence of the pro­tein amy­loid beta plaque begins to increase in an Alzheimer’s brain as opposed to a nor­mal brain. The abun­dance of the amy­loid beta plaque par­tially dis­ables a neuron’s abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate with other neu­rons (Cogh­lan). Cer­tain pro­teins that are found in the Alzheimer’s brain can cause cell deaths (Alexan­der). The com­bi­na­tion of these dys­func­tions, gen­er­ally affect­ing the cor­ti­cal and lim­bic regions, parts of the brain which affect emo­tions and mem­ory, are what causes the mem­ory loss and other symp­toms asso­ci­ated with Alzheimer’s dis­ease (Alexander).

Doc­tors cur­rently only use treat­ments and ther­a­pies intended to sti­fle the symp­toms as opposed to cur­ing the dis­ease. There are cur­rently only two drugs, Tacrine and Donepezil, that have been approved for use in the United States by the F.D.A. Both are quick fixes for symp­toms and the effects of the drugs never last long (Alt­man, 55). Cur­rent med­ica­tions are aimed at pre­vent­ing more Alzheimer’s plaques or destroy­ing the plaques. The new treat­ment works dif­fer­ently, aim­ing at another part of the dys­func­tional brain (Coghlan).

At Colum­bia Uni­ver­sity, sci­en­tists tried this new treat­ment on mice that they hope will one day be able to help humans who are affected by Alzheimer’s dis­ease. Michael She­lan­ski, lead­ing the research team, bred mice to have a rodent’s Alzheimer’s dis­ease. Pieces of cer­tain rodents’ brains were sub­jected to the amy­loid beta pro­tein. The other rodents had been born with a brain that would nat­u­rally pro­duce the pro­tein. The dif­fer­ent kinds of brains were then treated with Uch-L1 and brain func­tions began to improve and return to nor­mal (Coghlan).

A spokes­woman for the UK Alzheimer’s Soci­ety said, “Cur­rently, there’s only one type of drug avail­able, and this only sta­bi­lizes symp­toms for a lim­ited period but research on the new approach is still in the early stages…so fur­ther tri­als are urgently needed” (Cogh­lan). Cur­rently, the Uch-L1 would enter the body through a shot in the abdomen. Researchers are hop­ing to develop a pill which would have the same effect as the injec­tion (Cogh­lan). Cur­rently and in the future, researchers will likely con­tinue exper­i­ment­ing with the drug both to find the out­come when used on humans and to find a suc­cess­ful oral treat­ment. From this cur­rent research and pos­si­ble new treat­ment, it seems that things are look­ing up for Alzheimer’s patients who are cur­rently diag­nosed with­out any hope of a recovery.


1.Alexander, Gene. “Alzheimer’s Dis­ease.” Access Sci­ence. Online. McGraw-Hill. Red Land High School Lib., Lewis­berry, PA. 21 Feb. 2008 .
2.Altman, Linda Jacobs. Alzheimer’s Dis­ease. San Diego, CA: Lucent Books Inc., 2001.
3.Coghlan, Andy. “New Treat­ment ‘res­cues’ brains of Alzheimer’s mice.” 24 Aug. 2006. News Ser­vice. 19 Feb. 2008
4.“Dementia.” National Insti­tute of Neu­ro­log­i­cal Dis­or­ders and Stroke. 9 Sept. 2007. Med­line Plus. 26 Feb. 2008

Be Socia­ble, Share!
    Print This Article Print This Article

    Categories: Health & Wellness

    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

    New online course: How to Nav­i­gate Con­ven­tional and Com­ple­men­tary ADHD Treat­ments for Healthy Brain Development (early bird rates end April 1st)

    Haven’t read this book yet?

    Follow us via


    Welcome to

    As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Jour­nal, CNN and more, Sharp­Brains is an inde­pen­dent mar­ket research firm track­ing health and well­ness appli­ca­tions of brain science.
    FIRST-TIME VISITOR? Dis­cover HERE the most pop­u­lar resources at
    Enter Your Email to receive Sharp­Brains free, monthly eNewslet­ter:
    Join more than 50,000 Sub­scribers and stay informed and engaged.