Complaints about memory are associated with Alzheimer-related brain damage

Researchers at Rush University Medical Center found that having complaints about memory problems is associated with changes in the brain related to Alzheimer's disease. They reported their findings in the November 2006 issue of Neurology.

The researchers looked at the association between memory problems reported by study participants and signs of disease found in their brains after death. The study looked at autopsies of 90 older adults from the Rush Memory and Aging Project. The study included both participants who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease (23) and those that showed no clinical signs of the disease (67).

"One of the most interesting findings of the study was that individuals who had yet to have any clinical symptoms of Alzheimer's disease still showed a strong link between their self-reported memory complaints and brain pathology associated with Alzheimer's disease," said Lisa L. Barnes, PhD, from the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center. "This information may allow us to use memory complaints as a measure to intervene at an early point in the disease process."

To measure memory complaints participants were asked two questions:

How often do you have trouble remembering things" How is your memory [now] compared to 10 years ago" The researchers combined the answers to these two questions to create a scale to measure the severity of memory complaints. They used the memory scores taken closest to time of death. They also adjusted for confounding factors that might be related to memory problems like age, sex, and level of education.

The researchers then compared this scale with the levels of damage to the brain revealed during autopsy. The damage specifically looked at was the amount of amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain at the time of death. These plaques and tangles are the type of damage most closely linked to Alzheimer's disease.

The researchers found that each unit of Alzhe

Contact: Mary Ann Schultz
Rush University Medical Center

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