Can Alzheimer's disease be nipped in the bud?
Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia,
affects over 500,000 people in the UK and prevalence is
set to rise as the population ages. Since the approval last
year of cognition enhancing drugs, management of Alzheimer’s
disease, a previously untreatable condition, is undergoing
a dramatic change. The drugs improve some of the cognitive
symptoms of dementia and have also had a favourable impact
the ability to perform routine tasks. More therapies are
in development and the nature of the effects of drugs for
Alzheimer’s is an exciting area of investigation.
The availability of treatments for AD has intensified demands
for early diagnosis of the condition. The chance of delaying
symptoms still further has focussed research on people with
memory loss, a major risk factor for AD and a precursor
to the disease's early stages.
Researchers in the Centre are looking at whether people
with memory loss (termed mild cognitive impairment or MCI)
would benefit from treatment with cholinesterase inhibitors
by seeing whether this treatment can delay the onset of
Alzheimer's disease. The Centre is also visualising the
effects of an anticholinesterase on brain activity using
fMRI. The MCI study will be conducted over the next four
years and aims to provide answers to the following questions:
· which brain regions are activated by memory tasks
in subjects aged 55 onwards?
· what differences in brain function are there between
those with normal memory and those who are cognitively impaired?
· if rivastigmine has a positive effect, is it normalising
or stabilising? (do cognitive and functional abilities start
to return to normal during treatment, or do they just stop
· are the effects of rivastigmine specific to one
type of memory? Do they enhance the ability to remember
only newly acquired information for example, or do they
improve long term and working memory too? (For more information
on memory, refer to the cognition backgrounder.)