A Quest to Preserve Memories: Alzheimer’s Research

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 17, 2013

In observance of World Alzheimer’s Month, we’ve gathered recent posts about the work of our physicians who are leading research to understand and develop new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.


New Approaches for Treating Alzheimer’s Disease

Dr. Reisa Sperling believes that earlier treatment, prior to development of symptoms, is key to helping people with Alzheimer’s disease. This approach is consistent with how we’ve made progress against other diseases, such as reducing cholesterol to prevent heart disease. Learn how Dr. Sperling is applying this approach to Alzheimer’s disease.


Genetic Culprit Identified in Progression of Alzheimer’s

Thanks to some intercontinental teamwork, researchers have identified a gene that may help explain why certain Alzheimer’s disease patients experience a more rapid decline in cognitive (thinking) abilities.



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Genetic Culprit Identified in Progression of Alzheimer’s

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital August 15, 2013

Does genetics play a role in the varying rates of cognitive decline among Alzheimer's patients?

Thanks to some intercontinental teamwork, researchers have identified a gene that may help explain why certain Alzheimer’s disease patients experience a more rapid decline in cognitive (thinking) abilities.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) medical geneticist Dr. Robert C. Green first recognized that there may be a genetic explanation for why cognitive decline rates vary widely among Alzheimer’s disease patients after analyzing data from a large treatment trial. Even after screening out individuals with vascular disease and other medical conditions known to influence cognition, Dr. Green found that there was still significant variability in the rate of decline among remaining participants.

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Concerns about Memory Loss May Identify Alzheimer’s Risk

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 30, 2013

What's the difference between an attention lapse and memory loss?

Have you ever had trouble remembering the names of unfamiliar people? Those of us in middle age and beyond may wonder if this is a warning sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Rebecca Amariglio, from the Department of Neurology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), offers some insight into the differences between lapses of attention, a normal part of aging, and memory loss, a sign of something more serious.

“Lapses of attention include walking into a room and forgetting why you walked in. This is likely a part of normal aging. Memory loss is categorized as a decline in the ability to recall conversations, remember appointments, or remember recent events,” notes Dr. Amariglio. Memory loss can also be a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease.

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Food for Thought: Learning New Activities May Delay Alzheimer’s Disease

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 1, 2013

Keeping your mind active can help delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

Keeping your mind active, exercising, and spending social time with family and friends have been suggested as ways to help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The results of a new study led by Dr. Dennis Selkoe, co-director of the Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, now provide scientific reasons for why a mentally stimulating environment, which includes learning new activities, may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease occurs when a protein called amyloid beta accumulates and forms plaques in the brain. Amyloid beta build-up is thought to cause memory problems by interfering with brain activity that occurs in the synapses, the spaces between nerve cells that allow communication of information. This interference may lead to a decline in a person’s memory, attention, and the ability to learn, understand, and process information.

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New Approaches for Treating Alzheimer’s Disease

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 27, 2013

Dr. Dennis Selkoe and Dr. Reisa Sperling lead the Center for Alzheimer's Research and Treatment.

Alzheimer’s disease robs us of our most precious possessions — our memories.  And, like a robbery in the middle of the night, the theft can take place without us realizing it. Dr. Dennis Selkoe, Co-Director, Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), and Dr. Reisa Sperling, Director of the BWH Center for Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment, recently shared their insights into the latest medical research on Alzheimer’s disease at a lecture sponsored by the McCourt Foundation.

“Current therapies often provide patients with some symptomatic relief for a short period of time, however, none of these treatments slows the progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” says Dr. Sperling. “With nearly 10,000 U.S. baby boomers turning 65 each day, the search for new Alzheimer disease treatments has intensified.”

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When Memory Loss Is Cause for Concern

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 11, 2012

Losing your keys, forgetting a name, or missing an appointment—it happens to all of us and it can happen more frequently as we get older.  A certain amount of memory loss is normal as we age but some patients can experience memory loss that is greater than expected. These patients may be suffering from a condition called mild cognitive impairment (MCI).  Patients with MCI can live independently, unlike patients with dementia (severe loss of mental function), however, medical researchers are learning that MCI may be a warning sign of more serious illness.

Memory loss is normal as we age but sometimes it can indicate serious illness.

Several studies have found that patients with MCI have an increased risk of developing dementia.  Nearly 60% of patients with MCI develop Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia.  After being diagnosed with MCI, through a series of memory tests, patients can undergo genetic evaluation and specialized exams estimate the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease; however, it can be difficult for doctors to easily explain the test results to patients and their families.

Recently, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital announced a new study called the Risk Evaluation and Education for Alzheimer’s Disease Study (REVEAL).  The study’s goal is to learn how to communicate the results of genetic testing and Alzheimer’s risk estimates to MCI patients and their families so that they can gain a better understanding of what it means to have MCI, what are the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease, and how to cope with problems related to memory loss.

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Alzheimer’s Treatment: A Race against Time

Posted by Blog Administrator April 10, 2012

woman with Alzheimer's disease

BWH researchers are looking at new treatment options for Alzheimer's disease.

Imagine that in the next three-to-five years you will go from being fully independent to needing help with dressing, eating, and other basic activities of daily living. Now imagine that you are given a medication that will enable you to retain your current skills, even improve a little. But, in six-to-nine months, you will likely begin to decline again. This is the life of someone who has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

“Less than a handful of medications for Alzheimer’s disease are currently approved by the FDA. By and large, most people who take these medications see an improvement in their memory, other thinking abilities, daily functioning, and behavior for a short time, and then go on to experience further decline,” says Dr. Gad Marshall, a behavioral neurologist in the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment who is focusing on clinical trials of new treatment options for Alzheimer’s disease.

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