Nov

25

2013

Is it Normal Aging or Alzheimer's

Richard Edelson, Ph.D.

One of the unfortunate realities of life is that memory deteriorates over time. For most of us the process actually starts around the age of 35. So, if you are in your 70s, and you recognize that your memory at present is not as good as it was in the past, should you be worried about the cause of this problem? That is, how do you know if it is a normal part of aging, or if this is more significant, such as the beginning of a dementia, like Alzheimer's?

With that in mind, it is interesting to discover that recent research has revealed that memory loss which is a result of normal aging begins in a different part of the brain than that which results from Alzheimer's. The former starts in the Dentate Gyrus; the latter in the hippocampus. Moreover, the proteins which underlie the problem are different as well. Because we are now able to visualize at least one of these proteins, it will be easier to make this differential diagnosis in the future. We can follow the same diagnosis process with neuropsychological testing, where the pattern of scores seen for what has been referred to as “Age Associate Memory Loss” is different that that seen in a pre-Alzheimer’s state, sometimes referred to as a Mild Cognitive Impairment.  Why care about this? Because knowing that memory loss is due to normal aging reduces one's fear that the cause is far more serious and life altering.


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