Chicago – Scientists believe that a rare type of dementia causes Alzheimer’s-like changes in the brain, and it still preserves a patient’s memory. Primary progressive aphasia (PPA) is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects areas of the brain associated with language.
A recent study found that people with aphasia may not have the same problems as people with typical Alzheimer’s disease. The study sheds new light on a disease described by the UK’s Alzheimer’s Research Center in Cambridge, England, as “the greatest health challenge of our time”.
“While we knew that the memories of people with PPA were initially unaffected, we did not know whether or not they maintained their memory performance over years. This was difficult to determine because most memory tests are based on the verbal skills that these people have lost Or lose it,” says lead author of the study Dr. Marek Marcel Mesolam of Northwestern University in a statement.
The study compared 17 people with aphasia with 14 people with typical Alzheimer’s disease with amnesia. The aphasia group had no decline in their ability to remember for about two and a half years. They had symptoms for about six years. In contrast, their language skills declined significantly during the same period. The Alzheimer’s group’s verbal memory and language skills deteriorated just as seriously.
“More research is needed to help us identify the factors that allow these people to show resilience in memory skills even in the face of significant Alzheimer’s disease of the brain,” said Dr. Mesulam.
The aphasia participants in the study were shown pictures of objects in common and then had to determine if they had seen them before when they were shown again ten minutes later, along with other pictures. This was then repeated at a rate of 2.4 years.
Aphasia restricts the ability to speak, but memory does not suffer
Participants with Alzheimer’s disease listened to a list of common words and were subsequently given these words along with others and asked to choose the words they had heard before. They were tested again an average of two years (1.7) after that. Their language skills were also tested in both groups.
Scans were done for people with PPA to look at how the disease affected their brains, particularly in areas related to memory. The study also analyzed the brain autopsies of eight people who later died of primary progressive aphasia and all with typical Alzheimer’s disease. “The aphasia group had similar amounts of plaques and tangles that are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease,” Mesolam says.
There was less contraction on the left side of the aphasic patients’ brain and less of the proteins known as ApoE4 and TDP-43. These proteins have been identified as potential contributors to memory maintenance in this rare form of Alzheimer’s disease.
The National Aphasia Association describes PPA as a neurological syndrome in which language abilities are slowly and gradually impaired. “It usually begins with a subtle language disorder, progressing to a near-total inability to speak, in its most severe stages,” their website states.
According to the World Health Organization, deaths from dementia have doubled since 2000. It is now the fifth largest killer worldwide.
The study was published in Neurology.
SWNS writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.