Alzheimer's Disease

Chad Hales and Allan Levey

in Psychology

ISBN: 9780199828340
Published online November 2011 | | DOI:
Alzheimer's Disease

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Memory is a conserved cognitive task that has persisted for thousands of years. Early utilization may have assisted in returning to the best hunting ground or fruit grove while more current utilization, although similar concerning basic needs, also imprints sorrows, joyous occasions, and even a foundation for one’s trade. Unfortunately, aging increases the risk for losing memory in addition to other cognitive functions. The most common affliction that can cause this cognitive decline is Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is an indolent neurodegenerative disorder that impairs cognitive, occupational, and social functions. AD affects 10% to 15% of the population over age sixty-five with some estimates of 40% to 50% affected if over eighty-five years of age. More than 5 million Americans are currently affected, with future projections suggesting that 10 million to 15 million Americans will be afflicted by 2050. The economic impact is significant, nearing $150 billion annually; however, perhaps even more troubling is the constant psychological bombardment endured by both families and patients. At the turn of the 20th century, Alois Alzheimer, a psychiatrist and neuropathologist, described the seminal case. Auguste Deter (Alzheimer referred to her as a patient as Auguste D) experienced progressive short-term memory impairment and behavioral changes. Following her death, Alzheimer discovered abnormal protein collections, or plaques, in addition to neurofibrillary tangles in her brain, and he concluded that these findings were associated with the cognitive decline. These structures are identified in postmortem cases today, and they are used to confirm clinical diagnosis. Several years following Alzheimer’s revelations, his name became used as a descriptor to identify similar cases of AD. The diagnosis of AD is largely based on clinical impression, with confirmation possible only on postmortem analysis. Patients typically present with memory complaints, but they may also experience language, visuospatial, judgment, behavior, and mood disturbances. Patients may lack insight into their deficits and are often brought for evaluation by concerned family members. Patients decline gradually over five to ten years and typically succumb to a secondary illness such as pneumonia. More than 75,000 articles, books, and reference materials have been published on AD since Alzheimer’s time. Technological advances in science, coupled with ever-increasing life expectancy and a better understanding of abnormal cognition in the elderly, have likely spurred the more recent urgency. Although the hope is that therapeutics currently in clinical trials will alter the course of AD, more work is needed to assimilate the vast quantity of knowledge. In addition, further research at the cellular level is essential to better understand disease pathogenesis.

Article.  3464 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Developmental Psychology ; Health Psychology ; History and Systems in Psychology ; Educational Psychology ; Social Psychology

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