Alzheimer S Disease

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Alzheimer S Disease

  1. 1.  Alzheimer’s disease occurs when the brain begins to develop plaques (structures that are formed when axons and dendrites begin to break down) and tangles (structures that form in the brain from the breakdown of axons and dendrites). People with Alzheimer’s disease may remember how to do something, like play a game, but they may not remember whether they have taken their turn. It might be like if you were playing baseball and you remembered how to hit the ball with the bat, but you couldn’t remember whether it was your turn at bat or if you had just taken your turn.
  2. 2.  People with Alzheimer’s disease are said to have good procedural memory (memory for motor skills such as how to hit a ball with the bat) but they may have trouble with declarative memory (memory that a person can state in words).  Alzheimer’s disease gets worse over time, so people will have more serious memory loss, feel confused, experience depression, and other problems. It is much more common as people get older, and almost 50% of people over the age of 85 have Alzheimer’s disease.
  3. 3.  Alzheimer’s disease is not the same as the kind of forgetting that can occur when people get older, but is a real disease caused by major changes in the way the brain functions. When a person develops Alzheimer’s disease, a gene causes the protein that brain cells normally contain to begin behaving abnormally. This produces a protein known as amyloid beta protein 42. This protein accumulates in the brain and damages the membranes of axons and dendrites, and this causes the plaques to form. Another protein that accumulates abnormally with Alzheimer’s disease is called the tau protein, and produces the tangles seen with Alzheimer’s disease.
  4. 4.  This accumulation of abnormal chemicals produces by these changes in the brain damages many brain areas, including the basal forebrain area, a structure in the front of the brain that is necessarily for communication with the rest of the cerebral cortex. People with Alzheimer’s disease have difficulty concentrating and paying attention to ordinary life events because of this damage, and this causes problems with behavior and with memory.
  5. 5. Brain Cross-Sections A normal brain on the left and a brain of a person with Alzheimer’s disease on the right. Notice how much smaller the memory part of the brain at the bottom of the picture is for the person with Alzheimer’s disease as compared to the normal brain.
  6. 6.  There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, and the symptoms always get worse, but certain drugs that can help increase attention can cause people to behave more normally for a longer period of time than they would be able to without the drug. There are also more experimental treatments that are being tried that should help people who develop Alzheimer’s disease in the future.

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