We need to know more about dementia – what are the risk factors and how do we treat it?

I have done several blog postings about a health study on dementia to which I have been invited to contribute. This is a large-scale, longitudinal study based at the Imperial Research Hub at Charing Cross Hospital in London and it is looking particularly at whether the level of beta-amyloid in the brain is a risk factor.

First, I had a four-hour long assessment involving an interview and a whole battery of health checks and cognitive tests. Then I had MRI and PET scans to check respectively whether I have any existing mental problems and the concentration of beta-amyloid in my brain. Following these three sets of tests, I have now been accepted onto the study which will run for three and a half years with further tests every three months.

In the last couple of weeks, I have made two baseline visits to establish my current state of physical and mental health and my current level of cognitive abilities so that, over the coming years, it will be possible to see if my memory deteriorates and if so whether it is possible to identify any risk factors.

Today’s visit lasted three hours. There was a range of physical measures, including weight and blood pressure, and a range of samples, including blood, urine, and saliva (it takes a while to generate 5 ml of the stuff). Then I had another battery of cognitive tests, some assessing numeral, language and spatial skills but most focusing on short-term memory.

One recurrent test involves viewing pictures of 16 random objects. When the medical staffer names a category of object, the subject of the test has to identify and name the relevant object. Then the pictures are withdrawn and you have to try to remember as many as possible of the 16 random objects. After a set period of time, the staffer then prompts you by naming the category of objects that you forgot to see if you can then recall them.

After a completely different test, you are invited again to recall as many as possible of the 16 objects unprompted and then prompted. Then, after another completely different test, you are invited for a third time to record all the objects, again unprompted and then prompted. The idea, I believe, is to see if you are encoding new memories so that you can recall them, even if you need a prompt. Dementia sufferers have problems encoding new memories.

It’s all very interesting but quite exhausting.

Today’s tests were ‘Month zero”. from now on, I’ll have a similar set of tests every quarter (Month 3, 6, 9 ..) until the end of 2021. It’s all in a good cause.


XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>