AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 4, 2017

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Awareness of Memory Loss May Decline 2-3 Years Before Dementia Onset

According to research recently published in the journal Neurology, people who will develop dementia may begin to lose awareness of their memory problems two- to three-years before the actual onset of the disease. The results of the study also found that several dementia-related brain changes are associated with the decline in memory awareness. The analysis included 2,092 participants from three ongoing studies that have each followed older adults for more than 10 years. At the beginning of the study, the participants were an average of 76-years old and showed no signs of memory or cognitive impairments. They were given yearly tests of memory and thinking abilities. Participants were also asked how often they had trouble remembering things, and how they would rate their memory compared to 10-years earlier. Previous studies have focused on people who have already been diagnosed with dementia. In contrast, this study followed older adults before they showed any signs of dementia. Unexpectedly, memory unawareness began earlier in younger people than in older people. That may be because older people were more likely to expect memory loss as a normal part of aging, the researchers suggested. Additionally, researchers examined the brains of 385 participants who died during the course of the study, assessing them for seven types of brain changes common to dementia. They found three dementia-related pathologies associated with the rapid decline in memory awareness — tau proteins/tangles, infarcts, areas of brain damage and changes in the protein TDP-43. To read more about this study, click here.

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