August 12, 2011

Alzheimer’s Different in Very Old Patients

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- A new study suggests Alzheimer's patients who are over age 80 experience symptoms that are more subtle than those who are younger.

Researchers studied 105 Alzheimer's disease patients and 125 people who were free of dementia. The participants were divided into two groups: those between ages 60-75 and those aged 80 and older. All the participants were given tests that measured language; attention and speed of processing information; executive function; and immediate and delayed ability to recall information. They also underwent scans to measure the thickness of the outermost tissue layers in the cerebrum of the brain.

Results showed that although both groups of patients had similar levels of overall cognitive impairment, the pattern of changes associated with Alzheimer's disease appeared to be less noticeable in people over age 80 ("very old") compared to those between ages 69-75 ("young old").

In those considered "very old," executive function, immediate memory and attention/processing speed were less abnormal compared to those who were considered "young old." Also, the very old group showed less severe thinning of portions of cerebral cortex and the overall cerebrum compared to the young old group.

Investigators say this is partly because the brain areas decrease in thickness due to age, so there are fewer differences between the healthy very old brain the very old brain with Alzheimer's.

"Those who are 85 and older make up the fastest growing population in the world," study author Mark Bondi, Ph.D., with the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and VA San Diego Healthcare System, was quoted as saying. "Our study shows how age has a dramatic effect on the profile of brain atrophy and cognitive changes evident in Alzheimer's disease."

SOURCE: Neurology, Aug. 12, 2011