Researchers Question Alzheimers Diagnostic Tests

Healthy and Unhealthy BrainsPlaques and tangles on brain biopsy, post mortem, have been considered classic pathological features of Alzheimer’s disease.   Some researchers are questioning the validity of this finding, however, and a recent study from the UK sheds more light on this theory.

In their recent study, British researchers found that many people in their 90’s had significant plaques and tangles in their brains but still managed to avoid dementia. Their findings were based on the brains of 456 people who had died and donated their bodies to science.  The researchers found a strong link between plaques and tangles in the brain and Alzheimer’s in the 75-year-olds, but the significant association diminished by the time the people were 95.

These findings lend weight to the theory that plaques and tangles might not be a reliable sign of Alzheimer’s Disease.  The study also points out that there is a lot that we don’t know about Alzheimer’s, and dementia in general. 

Illustration courtesy of Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center (ADEAR), a service of the National Institute on Aging.

Source: “Plaques and Tangles May Not Doom the Very Old to Dementia”, MedPage Today, May 27, 2009 
Source: Savva G, et al “Age, neuropathology, and dementia” N Engl J Med 2009; 360: 2302-09.
Source: Ewbank D, Arnold S “Cool with plaques and tangles” N Engl J Med 2009; 360: 2357-59. 
Source: Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation

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