Lack of Awareness of Cognitive Issues Presages Alzheimer’s Disease

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Joseph Therriault

Integrative Program in Neuroscience 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: Neurologists have known for a long time that Anosognosia, or unawareness of illness, appears in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. For example, these patients will have diminished awareness of their memory loss, and will also engage in dangerous behaviors, such as leaving the house to go for a walk, without knowing they are at high risk of getting lost.

However, it was not known if decreased awareness of cognitive problems existed in the pre-dementia phase of Alzheimer’s disease. In our study, we compared the ratings of cognitive decline from the patient and their close relative, who also filled out the same questionnaire. When a patient reported having no cognitive problems but the family member reported significant difficulties, the patient was considered to have poor awareness of illness.

We found that patients who are less aware had increased disease pathology, and were nearly three times as likely to progress to dementia within two years, even when taking into account other factors like genetic risk, age, gender and education. The increased progression to dementia was mirrored by increased brain metabolic dysfunction in regions vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease.

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Fragmented Circadian Rhythm Associated with Preclinical Alzheimer’s Disease

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“mirror clock” by tourist_on_earth is licensed under CC BY 2.0Yo-El Ju, MD

Assistant Professor of Neurology
Sleep Medicine Section
Washington University School of Medicine

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The background for this study is that prior studies have shown that people with Alzheimer’s Disease have poor circadian clock function, for example sleeping during the day and being awake or agitated at night. Autopsy studies have shown that people with Alzheimer’s Disease have degeneration in the “clock” part of their brains. In this study, we wanted to examine whether there were any circadian problems much earlier in Alzheimer’s Disease, when people do not have any memory or thinking problems at all.

We measured circadian function in 189 people with an actigraph, which is an activity monitor worn like a watch, for 1-2 weeks. Brain scans and studies of cerebrospinal fluid were used to determine who had preclinical Alzheimer’s Disease, meaning they have the brain changes of Alzheimer’s but do not have symptoms yet.  Continue reading

High Rates of Amyloid Imaging Positivity in Patients With Primary Progressive Aphasia

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Miguel A. Santos-Santos, MD Department of Neurology, Memory and Aging Center University of California San Francisco Autonomous University of Barcelona, Cerdanyola del Valles, Spain

Dr. Miguel A. Santos-Santos

Miguel ASantosSantosMD
Department of Neurology, Memory and Aging Center
University of California San Francisco
Autonomous University of Barcelona, Cerdanyola del Valles, Spain

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Primary progressive aphasia (PPA) is a clinically and pathologically heterogeneous (generally Frontotemporal lobar degeneration [FTLD, generally tau or tdp proteinopathies] or Alzheimer’s disease [AD] pathology) condition in which language impairment is the predominant cause of functional impairment during the initial phases of disease. Classification of PPA cases into clinical-anatomical phenotypes is of great importance because they are linked to different prevalence of underlying pathology and prediction of this pathology during life is of critical importance due to the proximity of molecule-specific therapies. The 2011 international consensus diagnostic criteria established a classification scheme for the three most common variants (the semantic [svPPA], non-fluent/agrammatic [nfvPPA], and logopenic [lvPPA]) of PPA and represent a collective effort to increase comparability between studies and improve the reliability of clinicopathologic correlations compared to the previous semantic dementia and progressive non-fluent aphasia criteria included in the 1998 consensus FTLD clinical diagnostic criteria. Since their publication, a few studies have reported amyloid imaging and pathological results in PPA, however most of these studies are retrospective in nature and the prevalence of FTLD and Alzheimer’s disease pathological findings or biomarkers in each variant has been inconsistent across the literature, therefore prospective validation with biomarker and autopsy data remains scarce and highly necessary.
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Could Trace Levels of Lithium Protect Against Alzheimer’s Disease?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Val Andrew Fajardo, PhD.

NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow | Centre for Bone and Muscle Health
Brock University | Department of Health Sciences
St. Catharines, ON, Canada 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Lithium is best known for its role as a mood stabilizer, and several ecological studies across a number of different regions have shown that trace levels of lithium in tap water can exert its mood stabilizing effect and reduce rates of suicide, crime, and homicide.

The results from our study show that these trace levels of lithium could also potentially protect against Alzheimer’s disease.  These findings are actually supported by several years of research using pre-clinical and clinical models to demonstrate low-dose lithium’s neuroprotective effect against Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, we also found that trace lithium in tap water may potentially protect against obesity and diabetes – an effect that is also supported with previous literature.  In fact, some of the earlier reports of lithium’s effect of increasing insulin sensitivity and improving glucose metabolism were first published in the 1920s.  Finally, we found that trace lithium’s effect on Alzheimer’s disease may be partly mediated by its effect on obesity and diabetes.

My collaborator Dr. Rebecca MacPherson who is an expert on Alzheimer’s disease as a metabolic disorder explains that this effect is in support of recent research demonstrating that obesity and diabetes are important risk factors in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.  So interventions aiming to reduce obesity and diabetes such as physical activity can go a long way in lowering risk for Alzheimer’s disease, which is also something we present in our study.

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Hearing Loss Associated With Higher Risk of Cognitive Decline and Dementia

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Hear” by Jaya Ramchandani is licensed under CC BY 2.0David G. Loughrey, BA(Hons)

NEIL (Neuro Enhancement for Independent Lives) Programme
Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, School of Medicine
Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Age-related hearing loss, a common chronic condition among older adults, has emerged in the literature as a potential modifiable risk factor for dementia. This is of interest as current pharmacological therapies for dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease only offer symptom-modifying effects. Treatment of risk factors such as hearing loss may help delay the onset of dementia and may provide an alternate therapeutic strategy. However, there is variance in the research on hearing loss and cognition with some studies reporting a small or non-significant association. In this meta-analysis, we investigated this association and we only included observational studies that used standard assessments of cognitive function and pure-tone audiometry (the clinical standard).

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More Evidence That Higher Education May Lower Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Susanna C. Larsson, PhD Associate Professor, Karolinska Institutet, Institute of Environmental Medicine, Stockholm, Sweden

Dr. Larsson

Susanna C. Larsson, PhD
Associate Professor, Karolinska Institutet,
Institute of Environmental Medicine,
Stockholm, Sweden

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: The causes of Alzheimer’s disease are largely unknown and there are currently no medical treatments that can halt or reverse its effects. This has led to growing interest in identifying risk factors for Alzheimer’s that are amenable to modification. Several observational studies have found that education and various lifestyle and vascular risk factors are associated with the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, but whether these factors actually cause Alzheimer’s is unclear.

We used a genetic epidemiologic method known as ‘Mendelian randomization’. This method involves the use of genes with an impact on the modifiable risk factor – for example, genes linked to education or intelligence – and assessing whether these genes are also associated with the disease. If a gene with an impact on the modifiable risk factor is also associated with the disease, then this provides strong evidence that the risk factor is a cause of the disease.

MedicalResearch.com:  What are the main findings?

Response: Our results, based on aggregated genetic data from 17 000 Alzheimer’s disease patients and 37 000 healthy controls, revealed that genetic variants that predict higher education were clearly associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. A possible explanation for this link is ‘cognitive reserve’, which refers to the ability to recruit and use alternative brain networks or structures not normally used to compensate for brain ageing. Previous research has shown that high education increases this reserve.

We found suggestive evidence for possible associations of intelligence, circulating vitamin D, coffee consumption, and smoking with risk of Alzheimer’s disease. There was no evidence for a causal link with other modifiable factors, such as vascular risk factors.

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Could Lithium Lower Risk Of Alzheimer’s Disease?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Val Andrew Fajardo, PhD. NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow | Centre for Bone and Muscle Health Brock University | Department of Health Sciences St. Catharines, ON, Canada 

Dr. Fajardo

Val Andrew Fajardo, PhD.
NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow | Centre for Bone and Muscle Health
Brock University | Department of Health Sciences
St. Catharines, ON, Canada 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Lithium is best known for its role as a mood stabilizer, and several ecological studies across a number of different regions have shown that trace levels of lithium in tap water can exert its mood stabilizing effect and reduce rates of suicide, crime, and homicide.

The results from our study show that these trace levels of lithium could also potentially protect against Alzheimer’s disease.  These findings are actually supported by several years of research using pre-clinical and clinical models to demonstrate low-dose lithium’s neuroprotective effect against Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, we also found that trace lithium in tap water may potentially protect against obesity and diabetes – an effect that is also supported with previous literature.  In fact, some of the earlier reports of lithium’s effect of increasing insulin sensitivity and improving glucose metabolism were first published in the 1920s.  Finally, we found that trace lithium’s effect on Alzheimer’s disease may be partly mediated by its effect on obesity and diabetes.

My collaborator Dr. Rebecca MacPherson who is an expert on Alzheimer’s disease as a metabolic disorder explains that this effect is in support of recent research demonstrating that obesity and diabetes are important risk factors in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.  So interventions aiming to reduce obesity and diabetes such as physical activity can go a long way in lowering risk for Alzheimer’s disease, which is also something we present in our study.

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LMTX® Shows Promise As Monotherapy In Mild Alzheimer’s Disease

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Professor Claude Wischik Co-Founder and Executive Chairman TauRx Pharmaceuticals

Prof. Wischik

Professor Claude Wischik
Co-Founder and Executive Chairman
TauRx Pharmaceuticals

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The study TRx-237-005 was the second of two Phase 3 trials conducted by TauRx, and was specifically set up to investigate the efficacy and safety of LMTX® in 800 patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease at a dose of 100 mg twice daily compared to 4 mg twice daily (intended as an inactive control dose) over an 18-month treatment period.

Results from this study were found to be consistent with those from the first Phase 3 study in mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, published in The Lancet [(TRx-237-015) Gauthier et al. 2016], indicating that patients obtained no benefit from LMTX® when it was taken in combination with existing approved drugs for Alzheimer’s disease and supporting the hypothesis that LMTX® might be effective as monotherapy at doses as low as 4 mg twice daily. Please refer to the press release for full study results.

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Amyloid Deposits In Persons Without Dementia May Be First Sign of Alzheimer’s Disease 

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Willemijn Jansen, PhD  Postdoctoral researcher Department of Psychiatry & Neuropsychology Maastricht University Medical Center School for Mental Health and Neuroscience Alzheimer Center Limburg 

Dr. Jansen

Willemijn Jansen, PhD
Postdoctoral researcher
Department of Psychiatry & Neuropsychology
Maastricht University Medical Center
School for Mental Health and Neuroscience
Alzheimer Center Limburg 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Cerebral amyloid-β aggregation is an early pathological event in Alzheimer’s disease (AD), starting decades prior to dementia onset. About 25% of cognitively normal elderly and 50% of patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) have biomarker evidence of amyloid pathology. These persons are at increased risk for developing AD-type dementia, but the extent to which amyloid-β aggregation affects cognitive function in persons without dementia is unclear. This is important to know for a better understanding of the course of Alzheimer’s disease and for the design of AD prevention trials.

We here investigate the association between amyloid plaques and memory scores, using data from 53 international studies included in the Amyloid Biomarker study. Cognitively healthy elderly people with plaques have a low memory score twice as often as these persons without plaques. MCI patients with plaques had 20% more often low memory and low global cognition scores than MCI patients without plaques.

We further observed 10- to 15-year intervals between the onset of amyloid positivity and emergence of low memory scores in cognitively healthy persons.

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Sleep Apnea Increases Amyloid Load In Brain, A Hallmark of Alzheimer’s Disease

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Ricardo S Osorio MD Center for Brain Health Department of Psychiatry Center of Excellence on Brain Aging NYU Langone Medical Center New York, NY 10016, USA

Dr. Osorio

Ricardo S Osorio MD
Center for Brain Health
Department of Psychiatry
Center of Excellence on Brain Aging
NYU Langone Medical Center
New York, NY 10016, USA 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: This was a study that was performed in a group of healthy normal elderly from the community that volunteered for studies on memory and aging.

The main findings were that sleep apnea was very common, in almost all cases undiagnosed, and that it was associated with a longitudinal increase in amyloid burden which is considered one of the hallmark lesions of Alzheimer’s disease

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