It’s Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a syndrome characterized by brain
function loss that can affect memory, thinking, and communication. Dementia affects
approximately 47 million people worldwide. June marks Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness
Month and gives us a chance to start a global conversation about the importance of brain
health.

A 2017 study used magnetic resonance imaging to compare Alzheimer’s disease and late-onset
bipolar disorder, a mental illness with similar cognitive and behavioural symptoms. Researchers
found that Alzheimer’s was associated with more disruption in brain areas related to social and
emotional processing and object recognition than bipolar disorder. This disruption was thought
to be due to nerve cell degradation resulting in greater behavioural and emotional
impairments.

In terms of treatment, a recent study trained Alzheimer’s patients in ‘chunking,’ a memory
technique that involves recognizing and then compressing patterns of information. On average,
trained patients remembered sequences containing 6.3 numbers while untrained patients
remembered sequences containing 5.8 numbers. Additionally, the training was associated with
decreased functional activity in brain areas related to working memory. This indicated that less
effort was required to remember the sequences.

Clinical trials into treatment and cures for Alzheimer’s disease are ongoing. Alzheimer’s disease
is increasingly prevalent and is costly to society and individuals. It affects brain function,
meaning it attacks the organ which is fundamental to our sense of self and our perception of
the world. Our brains embody everything that makes us who we are; our thoughts, our
memories, and our emotions. Essentially, we are our brains.

Brain research has led to great strides in our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease, which is, in
turn, bringing us closer toward treatments and a potential cure. However, the number of
clinical trials with negative results make it clear that our understanding is not yet complete.
During this Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, why not take a moment to appreciate not
just what a miraculous organ your brain is, but also the people who are working daily to ensure
that your brain functions well for as long as possible.

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