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Tracking decline in the brain from the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s

Inter­est­ing arti­cle on The Dana Foun­da­tion web­site on how to mon­i­tor cog­ni­tive decline in the brain in the very ear­ly stages of Alzheimer’s: Func­tion­al MRI May Be Use­ful for Mon­i­tor­ing Cog­ni­tive Decline in the Elder­ly (Dana Foun­da­tion)

Alzheimer’s researchers have long want­ed to find bet­ter ways not only to diag­nose the dis­ease but also to mon­i­tor its pro­gres­sion from the ear­li­est stages.

A new study sug­gests that func­tion­al mag­net­ic res­o­nance imag­ing (fMRI), a tech­nique cur­rent­ly used main­ly for neu­ro­science research or to guide brain surgery, could be use­ful in this clin­i­cal role.

[…] an ele­gant and thought-pro­vok­ing study.

The Best Memory Tests: Mini-Mental and Beyond (Alzheimer’s Action Plan)

(Editor’s Note: I recent­ly came across an excel­lent book and resource, The Alzheimer’s Alzheimer's Disease Action PlanAction Plan: The Experts’ Guide to the Best Diag­no­sis and Treat­ment for Mem­o­ry Prob­lems, recent­ly released in paper­back. Dr. Murali Doraiswamy, one of the authors and lead­ing Alzheimer’s expert, kind­ly helped us cre­ate a 2-part arti­cle series to share with Sharp­Brains read­ers advice on a very impor­tant ques­tion, “How can we help the pub­lic at large to dis­tin­guish Alzheimer’s Dis­ease from nor­mal aging — so that an inter­est in ear­ly iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doesn’t trans­late into unneed­ed wor­ries?” What fol­lows is an excerpt from the book, pages 72–78, dis­cussing the Pros and Cons of the most com­mon assess­ments).

While no sin­gle test (oth­er than a brain biop­sy, which is a very inva­sive and risky pro­ce­dure) can con­clu­sive­ly prove that a per­son has Alzheimer’s, many tests can give us a good idea. A list of all the tests that help us assess mem­o­ry and think­ing prob­lems appears at the end of this chap­ter. Mean­while, let’s take a good look at the whys and hows of a thor­ough mem­o­ry assess­ment.

WHAT A DIFFERENCE AN EXTRA TEST CAN MAKE

To under­stand why get­ting test­ed (and retest­ed as symp­toms change and the dis­ease pro­gress­es) is impor­tant, check out the expe­ri­ence of Kather­ine, who went to the doc­tor com­plain­ing of a mem­o­ry slow­down. She took five of the most impor­tant neu­ropsy­cho­log­i­cal tests, which assess brain func­tion with­out actu­al­ly phys­i­cal­ly look­ing at the brain. Then she under­went brain scans, a car­dio­vas­cu­lar workup, and blood tests to see what else was going on that might be under­min­ing her men­tal func­tion. Read the rest of this entry »

Can We Pick Your Brain re. Cognitive Assessments?

If you could, you would. You can, but pre­fer not to know it?

More than any oth­er organ, your brain is up to you. You are what you think, not just what you eat. Here’s some food for thought:

Design your Mind

Set­ting cog­ni­tive and behav­ioral goals rais­es chal­leng­ing and wor­thy ques­tions: What do you want from your brain? Will you know it when you achieve it?

To attain the brain of our choos­ing, we must under­stand our selves and cur­rent abil­i­ties. Intro­spec­tion and curios­i­ty are help­ful if they trig­ger and sus­tain the effort to enrich the mind. How­ev­er, objec­tive infor­ma­tion which leads to informed assess­ment of brain func­tion is often lack­ing.

Mind your Brain

Hon­esty. Open­ness. Self-aware­ness.

Irrefutable virtues, but in prac­tice most peo­ple fall short. Few reg­u­lar­ly appraise their brain skills; even so, the abil­i­ty to accu­rate­ly judge one’s own men­tal per­for­mance is not guar­an­teed. I believe the first step to mind­ing the brain is shed­ding hang-ups while offer­ing and solic­it­ing frank feed­back from fam­i­ly and close con­fi­dants. In the clin­i­cal set­ting, rou­tine cog­ni­tive screen­ing and “men­tal check ups” are not cur­rent­ly prac­ticed, in part due to time con­straints and lim­it­ed util­i­ty of tra­di­tion­al paper-and-pen­cil tests. From a pub­lic health per­spec­tive, the U.S. Pre­ven­ta­tive Task Force reviewed Read the rest of this entry »

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