While the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease come about fairly rapidly, a new study suggests that people with this condition may see shrinkage of the mind as soon as a decade before they actually develop the disease. Two different sets of research were held in the country, one at Rush University Medical Center, located in Chicago, and the other at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Each study was designed to test the likelihood of a person developing Alzheimer’s disease in connection with the shrinking of their minds. The results were rather surprising.
The participants all started with no apparent mental damage whatsoever. They were put through brain image tests to monitor the size and shape of the brain. Over the course of 11 years, 8 of the 33 people in the Massachusetts group went on to develop Alzheimer’s disease, and 7 of the 32 in the Rush group did the same in eight years. More than half of the people whose brains were in the upper third of atrophy developed the condition, while none of the people with little to no atrophy suffered from the condition. Those with moderate atrophy only experienced a 20% development into Alzheimer’s.
This study was published in “Neurology” on April 13th, and it has sparked a decent amount of discussion in the medical community. Doctors say that they could examine the brain sizes in study participants and actually determine how soon they would develop Alzheimer’s, if they would develop it at all. While there has always been an awareness of the development of brain issues long before the Alzheimer’s actually develops, this research shows that the signs could come long before most doctors would have ever imagined.
Some researchers suggest that the reason why this shrinkage comes about so early on is because there are biochemical changes in the brain that the body cannot fully understand, and those changes lead to the degeneration of brain cells. As the brain cells die, the brain structure collapses, causing atrophy.
The future goals of this study are to develop a medication that can slow the progression of this atrophy, since there are none available at this time. Scientists want to be able to treat patients at the first signs of Alzheimer’s so they can minimize the amount of suffering that patients have to go through. Treating some of the conditions associated with the brain degeneration did show signs of being able to reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer’s, and that poses as hope for the future.
For now, this research is just creating some of the founding steps for many years of research and development to come. For now, patients can only hope that a cure will come in the future.