Memory Decline to Dementia Pathway Clarified

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People who progress from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to full-blown dementia experience periods of stability followed by a rapid deterioration in memory a year or two prior to diagnosis.

Sylvie Belleville, PhD, Director of the Research Centre at Montreal Geriatric Institute and a professor at the University of Montreal, and colleagues compared changes in the brain over a period of years between those with stable MCI and those whose MCI progressed to dementia.

In those patients who developed dementia, researchers found that cognitive areas (e.g. language, inhibition, working memory, and executive functions, etc.) do not change in a uniform way and decline does not happen in a linear fashion. And an accelerated decline in memory appears to be a precursor of dementia, the researchers reported in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

“In reality, a quick decline in episodic and working memory associated with language problems appears to be the typical profile of people who have a high risk of developing dementia within a short amount of time,” Belleville said in a statement.

The results may also help to identify people who are higher risk of eventually developing Alzheimer’s disease by defining the parameters of cognitive decline.

Neuropsychiatric Symptoms Increase Dementia Risk
People who progress from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to dementia experience periods of stability followed by a rapid deterioration in memory.

Canadian scientists have made progress toward explaining how brain changes progress from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to Alzheimer's-type dementia.

Understanding this pathway is critical for development of therapies to address Alzheimer's in its early stages.

In the new study, a team lead by Dr. Sylvie Belleville, Ph.D., Director of the Research Centre at Montreal Geriatric Institute and Professor of Psychology at Université de Montréal, showed the typical patterns of the brain's progression to dementia.

Researchers compared changes that occurred over many years in people with stable MCI with changes in people for whom MCI progressed to a diagnosis of Alzheimer's.

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