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  1. #1

    Understanding Alzheimer's disease

    Dear All,

    I am a neuroscientist who has recently finished my PhD at the University of Bristol. I have been doing some research (reading, not lab work) on Alzheimer's recently inspired by the Terry Pratchett 'Choosing to Die' programme broadcast a couple of months ago. I thought that people on this forum might like to read the fruits of my research.

    Here it is:

    Hope everyone is feeling well.
    Kind regards,
    Dr Paul Farrow

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    England and Scotland
    What an interesting clear summary Paul, and I really like the pictures. You mention in your online article:
    "techniques that measure the amount of amyloid beta and tau protein present in the circulation of patients are now being employed in order to assess possible Alzheimer’s sufferers."
    Does this mean in research labs, or would blood tests be part of a normal clinical diagnosis nowadays?

    MIL has vascular dementia and had a brain scan 6 years ago which showed age-related shrinkage and some circulation damage from heart attacks. So a straightforward diagnosis of VaD was made. She has recently requested a new scan but the consultant was reluctant to put her through the procedure (thought she would be scared I think, no other good reason). He says that because her diagnosis is 'already known' she doesn't need it. We are concerned about a possible mixed picture now, due to rapidly worsening symptoms, and believe she would benefit from the scan, and so have resubmitted the request.

    My question is, what type of scan is most definitive - MRI / CT, and should she also be having blood tests?

  3. #3

    My thoughts...

    Thank you for your kind words about the blog.

    At this point I should stress that I am not a medical doctor but a postdoctorate researcher so I will answer your question from my understanding and represent only my opinion and not that of the medical profession as a whole.

    It is good that you have resubmitted the request for the scan. The problem with dementias of all kinds is that they are very hard to distinguish from each other. At present, Alzheimer's can only be fully determined as a pathology post-mortem. The biomarkers I was referring to are at the research stage only (I believe) but may be progressing into general practice should a standardised protocol be agreed upon.

    With regards to the scans, I believe that MRI scans have a greater resolution for determining brain atrophy and so may be the better option. That said, CT scans also provide a useful tool in the assessment of Alzheimer's disease, principally because they can rule-out other forms of dementia. Either way, they are useful and I suggest you keep pushing.

    MRI scans are big nasty things so I am not surprised your doctor may be guiding you down a different route. MIL should be completely sure she wants to go down that potentially stressful avenue before she takes it.

    I hope that I have helped and I would like to reiterate that these questions should also be put to a consultant; I am but a humble neuroscientist.

    Best wishes,

  4. #4
    Very interesting read!

  5. #5
    Registered User maryw's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Very interesting; thanks for posting.

  6. #6
    Registered User
    Join Date
    May 2011

    worked with people with dementia

    hi paul haveing experiance not a lot but as a carer and now forth sister in family to be diagnosed unlike my sisters ci needed to know i an coping on aracept and hoping for some time before well ? it can run in familys but wish you well thank you jackanory


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