United States House and Senate negotiators unveiled an “omnibus” bill to fund the federal government that includes $122 million in additional Alzheimer’s funding, the largest-ever increase in federal funding for Alzheimer’s research and care programs. Learn more about how you can encourage passage of the bill at the Alzheimer’s Association.
The January 14, 2014 issue of the Philadelphia Tribune features a story on Raymond W. Holman, Jr.’s “Portraits of Alzheimer’s Caregivers” exhibit on display at the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine through February. Reporter Ayana Jones interviewed Dr. Jason Karlawish, Associate Director of the Penn Memory Center, about the exhibit.
“We heard about (Mr. Holman’s) work from coverage in other media,” Dr. Karlawish said. “We were deeply intrigued because it’s great art that is very relevant to our mission, which is making sense of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and related disorders,” he added. “We are particularly impressed and excited that he focused on people who are often underrepresented and underappreciated in the world of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia – namely individuals of African American ancestry and people who are working and living in a caregiving role.”
Read the full article in the Philadelphia Tribune here.
In an effort to develop a coordinated and collaborative approach to the development of dementia research studies and treatments, the UK hosted a G8 summit on dementia on December 11, 2013 in London. The gathering of health and science officials, researchers, pharmaceutical companies and senior industry figures aimed to identify an international approach to dementia research and policy. Topics included improving the quality of life for people affected by dementia; improving the prevention and treatment of dementia; and developing ways to stimulate greater investment and innovation in dementia research.
The summit was broadcast live via the G8 Dementia webpage here.
The Group of Eight (G8) is a forum for the governments of eight of the world’s largest national economies and includes the United States, France, Germany, the United Kingdom Italy, Japan, Canada and Russia.
Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have found that available evidence does not support an association between statins and memory loss or dementia. The new study, a collaborative effort between faculty in Penn Medicine’s Preventive Cardiovascular Program, the Penn Memory Center, and the Penn Center for Evidence-Based Practice, will be published in Annals of Internal Medicine.
The research team conducted a systematic review of the published literature and identified 57 statin studies reporting measures of cognitive function. Senior study author Emil deGoma, MD, assistant professor of Medicine and medical director of the Preventive Cardiovascular Program at Penn. and colleagues found no evidence of an increased risk of dementia with statin therapy. In fact, in cohort studies, statin users had a 13 percent lower risk of dementia, a 21 percent lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and a 34 percent lower risk of mild cognitive impairment compared to people who did not take statins. Cognitive test scores were not adversely affected by statin treatment in randomized controlled trials.
“Overall, these findings are quite reassuring. I wouldn’t let concerns about adverse effects on cognition influence the decision to start a statin in patients suffering from atherosclerotic disease or at risk for cardiovascular disease. I also wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that statins are the culprit when an individual who is taking a statin describes forgetfulness. We may be doing more harm than good if we withhold or stop statins – medications proven to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke – due to fears that statins might possibly cause memory loss,” said Dr. deGoma.
To read more, click here.
Jason Karlawish, M.D., Associate Director of the Penn Memory Center, is quoted in the December 10, 2013 issue of Scientific American. The article, How Brain Scans Might Change the Way Doctors Diagnose Alzheimer’s, discusses the development over the past 10 years of sophisticated brain scans that can estimate the amount of plaque in the brain, and an upcoming clinical trial that will investigate whether giving an experimental drug as soon as the scans detect the formation of plaques can slow or halt the development of Alzheimer’s. That trial, the A4 Study, aims to screen 3,000 healthy senior citizens to identify 1,000 amyloid-positive individuals who will receive either a drug therapy for Alzheimer’s called solanezumab or a placebo for three years. The Penn Memory Center is one of the 60 sites where the study will take place. To read the full Scientific American article, click here.
The online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, reports that speaking a second language may delay the onset of certain types of dementias.
The study found that people who spoke two languages developed dementia four and a half years later than people who only spoke one language.
“Our study is the first to report an advantage of speaking two languages in people who are unable to read, suggesting that a person’s level of education is not a sufficient explanation for this difference,” said study author Suvarna Alladi, DM, with Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad, India.
“Speaking more than one language is thought to lead to better development of the areas of the brain that handle executive functions and attention tasks, which may help protect from the onset of dementia.”
Read more at Neurology®.
More evidence is mounting that engaging in physical exercise leads to a healthier brain. At the Society for Neuroscience meeting currently underway in San Diego, researchers are reporting that “physical exercise can ease depression, slow age-related memory loss and prevent Parkinson-like symptoms.”
If you’re just playing Sudoku or challenging yourself with a crossword puzzle, you may not be doing enough.
“We definitely have more evidence for exercise,” said Teresa Liu-Ambrose of the University of British Columbia. Liu-Ambrose moderated a panel of scientists who presented studies showing that physical activity offers a wide range of brain benefits.
One reason exercise provides mental benefits may be that it actually requires the brain to do a lot of work, Robin Callister of the University of Newcastle said. The brain is coordinating complex movements when you go on a run, she said. Team sports or group exercises also activate parts of the brain devoted to social interactions.
Read more at NPR.
The 7th Annual Penn Memory Center Thank You Breakfast drew a full house to the Inn at Penn’s Woodlands Ballroom on Saturday, October 26, 2013. The annual invitation-only breakfast is held each year to thank research participants for their contribution to Penn’s Alzheimer’s disease research.
Over 200 research participants, their family members, guests and PMC staff gathered to enjoy a full breakfast buffet before hearing presentations on the latest updates in Alzheimer’s disease and the results of Alzheimer’s disease research done at the Penn Memory Center.
John Trojanowski, MD, PhD, Director of Penn’s Alzheimer’s Disease Core Center; Steven E. Arnold, MD, Director of the Penn Memory Center; Jason Karlawish, MD, Associate Director of the Penn Memory Center; and Felicia Greenfield, Associate Director for Clinical and Research Operations at the Penn Memory Center, presented the latest results from their research studies as well as updates on Penn Memory Center programs and upcoming research opportunities.
The presentations concluded with an open question and answer session. Guests’ questions ranged from the current and future state of Alzheimer’s disease research to the effects of antihistamines on memory.
The Food and Drug Administration approved a radioactive imaging chemical from General Electric to help screen patients for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The drug, Vizamyl, is an injection of radioactive material designed to highlight abnormal brain plaque in medical imaging scans.
Vizamyl works by binding to the plaque and creating images that show up on PET scans of the brain. A negative scan means there is little plaque and the cause of dementia is probably not Alzheimer’s, according to an FDA release. A positive scan means the patient has at least some plaque, but does not mean they definitely have Alzheimer’s.
The injection is intended as one tool to help physicians identify the cause of patient’s cognitive decline.
Read the full Associated Press article here.
A new study published in JAMA Neurology suggests that older adults who don’t sleep well have more brain beta-amyloid plaques, which can be indicators of Alzheimer’s disease.
The finding doesn’t prove that not getting enough sleep causes the build-up of beta-amyloid plaques and leads to dementia rather than the other way around. But, the study’s lead author, Adam Spira from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said, “It’s exciting that our findings … may point to sleep disturbance as something that can be a modifiable risk factor that can be leveraged to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.”
“We’ve known for a long time that people with Alzheimer’s disease have really disturbed sleep patterns,” Spira told Reuters Health. “People have wondered, well, is it possible that poor sleep is actually leading to cognitive decline?” In the new study, “We were able to look under the hood and see what’s going on in the brain,” he said.
Read the full Reuters Health article here.