Although brains are fascinating, it was long believed that the only thing you could do for a specific brain was to watch it deteriorate. However, researchers have made significant progress in comprehending the complexity of the organ, and their work is beginning to have an impact on our daily lives. Just for diagnostics, scientists are presently investigating more accurate brain imaging, improved genetic risk profiles, and dementia-related biomarkers in blood, urine, and spinal fluid.
According to Brooks Kenny, executive director of WomenAgainstAlzheimer’s, “in the last five to ten years, the pace of brain research has sped up in all areas, from understanding cognitive decline to identifying steps we can take to reduce our risk of dementia to developing new treatments for Alzheimer’s.” “I believe this is the result of growing recognition among the public, medical community, legislators, and leaders in the private sector that brain health is crucial to both individual and societal health in today’s aging society.” Despite the fact that there is still work to be done, here are three promising new developments.
Earlier Alzheimer’s diagnosis
Talking about Alzheimer’s disease (AD) can be frightening for anyone, and doctors are not exempt from this rule. Given the misconception that Alzheimer’s can only be detected through an autopsy, doctors may be hesitant to diagnose the disease, according to Marwan Sabbagh, M.D., F.A.A.N., director of translational research at Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.
Fortunately, PrecivityAD, a test recently approved by the FDA that analyzes amyloid particles in the blood, is one recent development in the field of Alzheimer’s. Additional tests or diagnostic imaging might be advised if levels are abnormal.
Participate in the discussion on brain health by watching the You & Your Brain web series, which was presented by Prevention, HealthyWomen, and the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement.
According to Dr. Sabbagh, these blood tests could be utilized as screening tools, similar to the prostate-specific antigen test for prostate cancer or the hemoglobin A1C test for diabetes. This is significant because the earlier we can identify the condition, the more likely it is that we can develop a plan that can help slow the rate of decline.
Drugs to treat dementia
In the past 18 years, the FDA has not authorized any medications for Alzheimer’s disease, but things may be about to change. First, a brief historical context People with AD frequently have brain cell-damaging beta-amyloid protein clumps. Four medications that are now being developed may be able to stop that accumulation, something scientists have been attempting to achieve for years. With the help of the medicine, it is hoped that certain antibodies will bind to protein clumps in persons with early-stage AD symptoms and alert the body that they shouldn’t be there. The immune system would then eliminate the protein, halting further decline.
Aducanumab, the first medication, is up for FDA approval this month. Although it isn’t quite a cure, Dr. Sabbagh argues that it is an important first step toward a better quality of life: “The patients wouldn’t necessarily get better, but at the onset of their sickness we could identify them and start a treatment plan that would prevent or postpone dementia.” Additionally, this year might see the approval of the first medication to treat psychosis brought on by dementia. Many dementia sufferers may experience hallucinations, delusions, or paranoia in addition to memory loss, personality loss, and independence; this new medicine, Nuplazid, works by inhibiting certain serotonin receptors.
A new way of thinking
According to Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph.D., founder and executive director of the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas, “brain health is actually a whole new category.” “When people talk about having a healthy brain, they mean that there are no diseases or injuries present, but it doesn’t necessarily equate to having a healthy brain,” says the author.
The BrainHealth Project, a study that considers participants’ well-being, social contacts, and daily routine in addition to their cognition, is motivated by this broader perspective. Each participant in the study is paired with a coach to help them improve their score through personalized healthy habits, such as doing critical-thinking tasks at times of the day when their brain is sharpest. Participants are given the BrainHealth Index to arrive at a score that is more nuanced than, say, IQ (which Chapman claims is outdated and carries with it stigma). Eighty percent of the individuals improved their scores during the initial 12-week experiment. According to Chapman, “We know that a healthy brain actually is the driver of all our life decisions to make us healthier.”
Take part in research
Volunteers in trials have helped scientists make these advancements; nevertheless, they still need more volunteers, particularly healthy ones. According to Dr. Sabbagh, changes in the brain begin 20 years before the first day of forgetfulness. “More research on brain health, particularly among women and underrepresented communities, is still needed,” continues Kenny. Finding the appropriate interventions for the appropriate patients and better understanding the complexity of the disease depend on this. Here are some reliable sources for trials: