Today's Top Alzheimer's News

Rare Alzheimer's variant might be more widespread than previously thought, the impact of learning a new skill on memory, and Sen. Pat Tommey's Alzheimer's connection (read more).  

 

Must reads

  • A May 5, 2014 Science Blog article reported that Mayo Clinic researchers have discovered that an Alzheimer's variant "called hippocampal sparing AD, made up 11 percent of the 1,821 AD-confirmed brains...suggesting this subtype is relatively widespread in the general population." According to the article, "In an oral presentation at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Philadelphia, scientists say hippocampal sparing AD often produces symptoms that are substantially different from the most commonly known form of AD, which affects the hippocampus, the center of memory.The patients, mostly male, are afflicted at a much younger age, and their symptoms can be bizarre — behavioral problems such as frequent and sometimes profane angry outbursts, feelings that their limbs do not belong to them and are controlled by an “alien” unidentifiable force, or visual disturbances in the absence of eye problems, researchers say."
  • A May 5, 2014 WBUR (NPR Boston) reported on research that finds that learning a new skill improves memory for older adults. According to the article, "Park's research, which was published in the journal Psychological Science, showed that not all activities are created equal. Only people who learned a new skill had significant gains…So how does learning a new skill help ward off dementia? By strengthening the connections between parts of your brain, says cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman. While brain games improve a limited aspect of short-term memory, Kaufman says, challenging activities strengthen entire networks in the brain."

Policy and politics

  • A May 5, 2014 Washington Post article reported on controversy over medicare coverage for dementia screenings. According to the article, "For the millions of seniors who worry that losing their keys may mean they’re losing their minds, the health law now requires Medicare to cover screening for cognitive impairment during an annual wellness visit. But in a recent review of the scientific research, an influential group said there wasn’t enough evidence to recommend dementia screening on a routine basis for people older than 65…That is a key argument against large-scale routine screening of people older than 65, says Ariel Green, a geriatrician at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. “We don’t have studies that show that such a screening program improves the care of people with dementia,” she says. Still, if an individual has concerns about dementia because of a family history of Alzheimer’s or memory lapses, for example, a medical professional should evaluate the person and a screening test may be appropriate in that case, experts say."
  • A May 5, 2014 CBS Philly article reported on Sen. Pat Toomey's (R-PA) connection to Alzheimer's disease and his efforts to increase research funding for the disease. According to the article, "Pennsylvania has more people suffering with Alzheimer’s disease than most other states.  And now Senator Toomey is calling for more research funding…Senator Toomey, a member of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s, agrees more money needs to be spent on Alzheimer’s.  The question is how? “I’m not sure yet whether we need to propose legislation or we need to simply work on increasing some of the funding that’s available,” said Senator Toomey."

 

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