Scientists Still Perplexed by Dementia

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerJanuary 18, 2017

Doctors, families, researchers and seniors living with Alzheimer’s or dementia are eager to end the epidemic, finding a cure to eliminate the disease entirely. However, scientists are still perplexed by dementia as recent failures of promising treatment options are revealing just how complex the brain is and how hard it is to reverse the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

Learn more about the the complexities of treatment options, the failure of recent studies and why researchers aren’t giving up on hope for a cure.

Scientists Still Perplexed by Dementia and Failure of Treatment Methods

Researchers and scientists are well aware of the growing Alzheimer’s and dementia epidemic. There are an estimated 5 million people in the United States living with the disease, making brain health and memory restoration a top priority for many of the nation’s leading neuroscientists.

The recent failure of promising treatment methods reminds the entire community just how difficult it is to protect against memory loss and understand the disease.

In late 2016, Eli Lilly announced that their drug to treat Alzheimer’s did not show a statistically significant benefit. Dr. Eric Siemers, medical director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Team at Eli Lilly admitted, “The outcome was not what we hoped for, and that is disappointing for the millions of people waiting for a potential disease-modifying treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.”

Another study found that deep brain stimulation, once thought to restore memory, really worsened memory. Study author Joshua Jacobs, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science says, “That was the most surprising thing. We found a small but statistically very robust decrease in memory, which is not what we had hoped for.”

Both of these studies indicate how difficult it is to treat Alzheimer’s and related forms of dementia. But, why?

Therapies for Dementia and Memory Restoration Are Difficult to Create

Jacobs explains that memory is one of the most complex processes that the brain does. He says:

“Memory is part of all aspects of the conscious experience. To understand and improve a process that involved the whole brain or a lot of the brain is a big challenge.”

Professor at UC Davis Center for Neuroscience Charan Ranganath expands on the complexities of memory, saying, “Memory isn’t really an ability, it’s really a collection of different abilities. I could teach you a good mnemonic trick to help remember names that go with faces, but that won’t help you remember your upcoming doctor’s appointment or the plot of a complicated movie.”

Additionally, it is extremely challenging to restore a memory after it’s been lost. Once Alzheimer’s or dementia has begun, it is hard to reverse its effects, which is why so many researchers are focusing on boosting brain health before the onset of the disease.

Researchers Continue to Explore Possibilities for Treatment

While there is still so much to know about memory loss and restoration, there is a lot we do know:

  1. We know that the body and mind are strongly connected.
  2. We know that type 2 diabetes is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s, as is depression.
  3. We know that positive life choices like healthy eating and regular exercise reduce the risk of dementia.

Researchers continue to explore possibilities, hopeful for a future without Alzheimer’s.

While scientists are still perplexed by dementia, research shows that it’s easier to focus on boosting brain health before the disease begins. In which ways have you worked to prevent dementia? Share your stories with us in the comments below.

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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