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Alzheimer's disease news/notes

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01-11-2013, 01:35 AM
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Fugu
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Alzheimer's disease news/notes

Speaking More Than One Language Could Prevent Alzheimer's

Good news for those of us who grew up with two languages:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013...rs?ft=1&f=1001

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The latest evidence from the bilingualism-is-good-for-you crew comes from Brian Gold, a neuroscientist at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine in Lexington. To test the idea, he had older people who grew up bilingual do an attention-switching task, a skill that typically fades with age. Earlier research has found that people bilingual since childhood are better at the high-order thinking called executive function as they age.

Gold found that his bilingual seniors were better at the task, which had them quickly sorting colors and shapes, than their monolingual peers. He then added an extra dimension by sticking the people's heads in scanners to see what was happening inside their brains. The brains of the monolingual seniors were working harder to complete the task, while the bilingual seniors' brains were much more efficient, more like those of young adults.


Last edited by LadyStanley: 05-24-2013 at 12:02 AM.
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01-11-2013, 03:56 AM
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Good.I'm safe.

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01-14-2013, 02:18 AM
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sonticus
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I wonder if this is just for people who grew up speaking multiple languages or if it also goes for people who learned another language after adolescence?

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01-14-2013, 02:37 AM
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If the same benefit is provided to people who learned a second language in adulthood, it means I need to redouble my efforts at learning a second language.

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01-14-2013, 12:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sonticus View Post
I wonder if this is just for people who grew up speaking multiple languages or if it also goes for people who learned another language after adolescence?
from the article

Quote:
Gold seldom speaks French now, though he has learned Spanish to talk with his Mexican-born wife and her relatives. His next task is to see if learning a second language in adulthood would give some protective benefit to those of us who missed the chance to be bilingual as children. That, he says, "would be more useful to people."

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01-14-2013, 01:54 PM
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My proficiency in English and Pig Latin pays off once again.

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01-14-2013, 03:34 PM
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Hmm, French, Russian, or Spanish, decisions, decisions...

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01-14-2013, 04:33 PM
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Originally Posted by DanielBryanRoleModel View Post
Hmm, French, Russian, or Spanish, decisions, decisions...
My opinion: Pick a language that is extremely different from your native language. You're going to be getting the cognitive benefits regardless, but there will be some more fun "Whooooaaa" moments if you learn one that's totally different.

So if you're an English speaker, out of those options, Russian would be my choice.

Here's a chart I dug up really quickly. I don't completely agree with it, but whatever.



Last edited by Sevanston: 01-14-2013 at 04:38 PM.
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01-14-2013, 04:49 PM
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I am very confused about this story. The NPR article contains a link to the actual study. The name of the study is "Lifelong Bilingualism Maintains Neural Efficiency for Cognitive Control in Aging". The article is probably behind a paywall but I have access because I'm a student... I searched the pdf and there is exactly one appearance of the word "Alzheimer": it's in the title of one of the papers that is cited. I skimmed through the text and found no mention of Alzheimer's or any other specific neurodegenerative disease. The article shows that old people who are bilingual perform better at a certain task than monolingual people.

There is absolutely no data shown about any of the molecular pathology of Alzheimer's. Nothing about Amyloid B plaques. Nothing about tau protein neurofibrillary bundles. Nothing even about soluble amyloid levels in the brain. I honestly don't see how NPR got Alzheimer's out of the article. Am I missing something?

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01-15-2013, 03:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Danja View Post
I am very confused about this story. The NPR article contains a link to the actual study. The name of the study is "Lifelong Bilingualism Maintains Neural Efficiency for Cognitive Control in Aging". The article is probably behind a paywall but I have access because I'm a student... I searched the pdf and there is exactly one appearance of the word "Alzheimer": it's in the title of one of the papers that is cited. I skimmed through the text and found no mention of Alzheimer's or any other specific neurodegenerative disease. The article shows that old people who are bilingual perform better at a certain task than monolingual people.

There is absolutely no data shown about any of the molecular pathology of Alzheimer's. Nothing about Amyloid B plaques. Nothing about tau protein neurofibrillary bundles. Nothing even about soluble amyloid levels in the brain. I honestly don't see how NPR got Alzheimer's out of the article. Am I missing something?
From the cited article, and then another linked one therein:
Neuroscientists think that having more reserve brain power helps compensate for age-related declines in thinking and memory, and may help protect against the losses caused by Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.
http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012...entia-symptoms
It reviews the state of research on bilingual adults, and finds they maintain better executive functioning later in life than monolingual people. That extra "cognitive reserve" may allow the brain to better cope with the damage caused by dementia, thereby delaying symptoms. (Being physically and mentally active has also been shown to have cognitive benefits.) The article, also co-authored by Bialystock, is in the current issue of Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

The title could have been more accurate by saying cognitive reserve may help delay the onset of dementia, including Alzheimer's?

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01-15-2013, 11:02 AM
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I'm fluent in 4 and can get by in a 5th language. That must mean I have an unlimited cognitive reserve.

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01-15-2013, 03:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fugu View Post
From the cited article, and then another linked one therein:
Neuroscientists think that having more reserve brain power helps compensate for age-related declines in thinking and memory, and may help protect against the losses caused by Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.
http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012...entia-symptoms
It reviews the state of research on bilingual adults, and finds they maintain better executive functioning later in life than monolingual people. That extra "cognitive reserve" may allow the brain to better cope with the damage caused by dementia, thereby delaying symptoms. (Being physically and mentally active has also been shown to have cognitive benefits.) The article, also co-authored by Bialystock, is in the current issue of Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

The title could have been more accurate by saying cognitive reserve may help delay the onset of dementia, including Alzheimer's?
Yeah, I don't like the title at all; it's not really accurate. Alzheimer's has a distinct molecular pathology which multilingualism does not address. If you have a predisposing PSEN mutation, learning 1000 languages won't prevent you from accumulating amyloid B fragments, which will eventually kill your neurons. Having a higher cognitive reserve allows you to be a "higher-functioning" Alzheimer's victim, at least for a while, but it won't stop your neurons from dying and the eventual onset of dementia.

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01-15-2013, 06:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Danja View Post
Yeah, I don't like the title at all; it's not really accurate. Alzheimer's has a distinct molecular pathology which multilingualism does not address. If you have a predisposing PSEN mutation, learning 1000 languages won't prevent you from accumulating amyloid B fragments, which will eventually kill your neurons. Having a higher cognitive reserve allows you to be a "higher-functioning" Alzheimer's victim, at least for a while, but it won't stop your neurons from dying and the eventual onset of dementia.
As someone with many Alzheimer's patients in their family, that is really depressing

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01-15-2013, 06:47 PM
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Originally Posted by invictus View Post
As someone with many Alzheimer's patients in their family, that is really depressing
This and this offer more hope than a nebulous article that makes (in my opinion completely unwarranted) instances based on statistical correlation. You can never say for sure, but it looks like help is on the way.

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01-15-2013, 08:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Danja View Post
This and this offer more hope than a nebulous article that makes (in my opinion completely unwarranted) instances based on statistical correlation. You can never say for sure, but it looks like help is on the way.
Wow, those are very cool articles. Thanks for sharing

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01-16-2013, 12:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Danja View Post
Yeah, I don't like the title at all; it's not really accurate. Alzheimer's has a distinct molecular pathology which multilingualism does not address. If you have a predisposing PSEN mutation, learning 1000 languages won't prevent you from accumulating amyloid B fragments, which will eventually kill your neurons. Having a higher cognitive reserve allows you to be a "higher-functioning" Alzheimer's victim, at least for a while, but it won't stop your neurons from dying and the eventual onset of dementia.

I'm not sure you're accounting for what may be happening in the brains of people who were raised as bilinguals, at least to stick to this example. You're born with a certain amount of potential, but how much of that potential you achieve will be influenced by your environment. It may be that bilingual children's brains are forming more synaptic connections, and thus have a greater 'network' of functioning neurons. Thus you will still lose neurons at some rate with a disease like Alzheimer's, but you may retain greater function because you have a better network in place.

An analogy would be that you have roadways between a couple of towns on opposite sides of the river. If there's only one bridge and that bridge is damaged, you obviously can no longer get across. If you have many bridges across the same river, the loss of one has a different effect than the first example.

Now, yes NPR's title does say this may 'prevent' Alzheimer's, but can it mean that you have so many more bridges that the loss of some of them will yield a result that makes the brain appear as if it's not affected? Is the brain creating new connections due to the type of functions being undertaken?

Consider how stroke victims can in some cases re-learn language and functions after the area of the brain controlling those functions before is damaged.

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01-16-2013, 01:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Fugu View Post
I'm not sure you're accounting for what may be happening in the brains of people who were raised as bilinguals, at least to stick to this example. You're born with a certain amount of potential, but how much of that potential you achieve will be influenced by your environment. It may be that bilingual children's brains are forming more synaptic connections, and thus have a greater 'network' of functioning neurons. Thus you will still lose neurons at some rate with a disease like Alzheimer's, but you may retain greater function because you have a better network in place.

An analogy would be that you have roadways between a couple of towns on opposite sides of the river. If there's only one bridge and that bridge is damaged, you obviously can no longer get across. If you have many bridges across the same river, the loss of one has a different effect than the first example.

Now, yes NPR's title does say this may 'prevent' Alzheimer's, but can it mean that you have so many more bridges that the loss of some of them will yield a result that makes the brain appear as if it's not affected? Is the brain creating new connections due to the type of functions being undertaken?

Consider how stroke victims can in some cases re-learn language and functions after the area of the brain controlling those functions before is damaged.
I completely agree with you that environment affects the brain's cellular development and it's not a logical stretch to suggest that a task as complicated as learning two sets of languages would result in forming more neural synapses, which would make the brain more resistant to dementia on the whole. My objection to the article is with the use of "prevent" and "Alzheimer's".

People who are familiar with the molecular biology and pathology of AD can see right away that there's a logical disconnect between "learning new languages" and "preventing Alzheimer's". It's like saying that gas makes a car run; if you tell that to a mechanical engineer they will already have the background to understand the passage of fuel through the engine which couples one concept to the other. However, if you tell that to someone who has never learned how a car works, they might try to buy canisters of gasoline and put them in the trunk, and then be surprised that the car isn't moving.

In the case of the article, it's the reporter's job to learn about the facts of the study before disseminating them. Otherwise, you can have people (particularly those with Alzheimer's in the family) saying

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Originally Posted by Jafar View Post
Good.I'm safe.
or something similar by drawing incorrect conclusions. If the title had been "Speaking more than one language could diminish dementia symptoms", it would have been accurate and informative. However, by using "prevent" and "Alzheimer's", the author performs a logical quantum leap; the paper doesn't seem to show bilingualism "prevents" anything (at least when I skimmed it) and as I said, the only place "Alzheimer's" appears is in the citation. That's my beef. I would expect this kind of writing from a pop-sci blog or small web site, but I had more faith in NPR's fact checking.

edit: For full disclosure, I'm by no means a doctor or expert on AD. I'm just a grad student who recently started an AD-related project and consequently did some intensive literature research on how the disease works.

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01-16-2013, 02:09 AM
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I understand the distinction you're making.

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01-16-2013, 10:00 AM
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Hank Chinaski
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This actually raises an interesting point, one that maybe Danja can answer. Is it possible for someone to have latent forms of Alzheimer's? In other words, someone who may show some of the telltale pathology of an Alzheimer's patient (eg. neurofibrillary tangles, amyloid plaques, etc.), yet has never demonstrated any of the cognitive and functional decline that is typical of Alzheimers?

My guess is that conclusive data would be hard to find on ths, since they aren't going to be doing many pathology reports on the brains of deceased patients who showed no cognitive decline.

Nevertheless, I think this may be an example of the media making false conclusions based on incomplete understanding of certain terms. Slowing cognitive decline (which is what the article discusses) wouldn't necessarily equate to preventing or delaying AD.

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01-16-2013, 12:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Hank Chinaski View Post
This actually raises an interesting point, one that maybe Danja can answer. Is it possible for someone to have latent forms of Alzheimer's? In other words, someone who may show some of the telltale pathology of an Alzheimer's patient (eg. neurofibrillary tangles, amyloid plaques, etc.), yet has never demonstrated any of the cognitive and functional decline that is typical of Alzheimers?

My guess is that conclusive data would be hard to find on ths, since they aren't going to be doing many pathology reports on the brains of deceased patients who showed no cognitive decline.

Nevertheless, I think this may be an example of the media making false conclusions based on incomplete understanding of certain terms. Slowing cognitive decline (which is what the article discusses) wouldn't necessarily equate to preventing or delaying AD.
Actually, there have been studies on this and the answer to your question is yes. I don't have time to find the actual scholarly articles right now, but a quick Google search turned up the following:

Molecular Imaging Detects Signs of Alzheimer's in Healthy Patients

Brain Plaques in Healthy Individuals Linked to Increased Alzheimer's Risk

Keep in mind that cognitive decline isn't a binary thing; it's not like you have dementia or you don't. You either have a dementia diagnosis from your doctor or not, but the reality is that it's a continuum; you can have gradual cognitive decline that isn't recognized as Alzheimer's because you died for other reasons before the disease got to the point of full-blown dementia.

The current hypothesis is that the plaques are actually a symptom of the disease rather than the cause. The actual neuron-killing agent is predicted to be soluble amyloid oligomers (clusters of 2 to ~16 fragments of the amyloid protein which are still small enough to dissolve in water). This has been tested by collecting these fragments from patient brains (and also manufacturing them artificially in the lab) and then injecting them into mouse brains; the mice subsequently recapitulated Alzheimer's symptoms and grew plaques.

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05-21-2013, 01:09 AM
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Molecular Trigger for Alzheimer's Disease Identified

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases...0520154217.htm

Quote:
Researchers have pinpointed a catalytic trigger for the onset of Alzheimer’s disease – when the fundamental structure of a protein molecule changes to cause a chain reaction that leads to the death of neurons in the brain.
For the first time, scientists at Cambridge’s Department of Chemistry have been able to map in detail the pathway that generates “aberrant” forms of proteins which are at the root of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s.
They believe the breakthrough is a vital step closer to increased capabilities for earlier diagnosis of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and opens up possibilities for a new generation of targeted drugs, as scientists say they have uncovered the earliest stages of the development of Alzheimer’s that drugs could possibly target.

Earlier detection = more room for "good chemistry"

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05-24-2013, 12:01 AM
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Drugs Found to Both Prevent and Treat Alzheimer's Disease in Mice

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases...521153940.htm?


Quote:
Though science isn't there yet, a new study published in The Journal of Neuroscience spearheaded by USC Davis School of Gerontology researchers offers a tantalizing glimpse of potential solutions.
"Our data suggests the possibility of drugs that can prevent and treat Alzheimer's," said lead author, professor and lab principal Christian Pike of USC Davis. "It's just mouse data but extremely encouraging mouse data."
The team studied the effects of a class of drugs called TSPO ligands on male mice that were genetically engineered to develop Alzheimer's disease, known as 3xTg-AD mice. Because a key mechanism of TSPO ligands is to increase production of steroid hormones, it was important to ensure that the mice had low levels of testosterone and related hormones before treatment. Younger mice were castrated while, in older mice, the decrease occurred as a normal consequence of aging.

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