For decades, researchers have been examining the advancement of Alzheimer’s through one basic model, even though the symptoms and progression of Alzheimer’s can vary from person to person.
Now, however, a new, collaborative study between the United States, Canada, Sweden, and Korea is discovering some fascinating data to help us more accurately understand and treat Alzheimer’s disease. Rather than one universal, dominant diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, researchers have discovered that there are 4 specific variants that occur in as many as 18 – 30% of cases. This shift in thinking is helping researchers more fully understand the variations in the disease from person to person.
The findings are also significant in that they’re allowing specialists to begin to individualize treatment plans based on the particular subgroup diagnosed.
The study reviewed data from over 1,600 individuals, identifying more than 1,100 who were either in various stages of Alzheimer’s disease or who were not cognitively impaired at all. Following these participants over a two-year period allowed researchers to funnel every individual who presented tau abnormalities into four specific sub-groups:
- Subgroup 1: Occurring in as many as one out of three diagnoses, this variant involves the spreading of tau within the temporal lobe. The prevailing impact is on memory.
- Subgroup 2: Having an effect on the cerebral cortex, the second variant has less of an impact on memory and more on executive functioning, such as planning and carrying out actions. It affects about one in five individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
- Subgroup 3: In this variant, the visual cortex is impacted, affecting a person’s orientation to self, ability to distinguish distance, shapes, contours, movement, and an object’s location in relation to other objects. As with the first variant, it occurs in about one in three diagnoses.
- Subgroup 4: This variant represents an asymmetrical spreading of tau within the left hemisphere of the brain, resulting in the greatest impact on language and occurring in about one out of five cases of Alzheimer’s.
Oskar Hansson, professor of neurology at Lund University and supervisor of the study, describes future steps: “…we need a longer follow-up study over five to ten years to be able to confirm the four patterns with even greater accuracy.
No matter which type of dementia a senior loved one has, Seniorcare caregivers receive significant training in helping manage any challenges while emphasizing his/her strengths. Call us at 757-640-0557 for senior care in Portsmouth or a nearby location and let us develop a plan of care to enhance life for a senior with dementia.