By Audrey Quinn
Posting in Technology
If you could know how and when your brain will lose its sharpness, would you want to? A new model can predict the spread of dementia.
If you could know how and when your brain will lose its sharpness, would you take that opportunity?
A team from Weill Cornell Medical College reports in the March 22nd issue of Neuron that they may be able to offer just that. They've developed a computational model for the flow of toxic proteins, which underlie the spread of dementia.
Dementia happens when nerve cells die and/or stop speaking to each other. The disease most likely spreads through misfolded proteins moving along networked brain cells.
The new model looks at where these toxic proteins already are in newly diagnosed dementia patient. It then predicts where the toxic proteins will go next.
Lead researcher, Ashish Raj, Ph.D., explains in a Weill Cornell Medical College press release,
"Think of it as a weather radar system, which shows you a video of weather patterns in your area over the next 48 hours. Our model, when applied to the baseline magnetic resonance imaging [MRI] scan of an individual brain, can similarly produce a future map of degeneration in that person over the next few years or decades."
"This could allow neurologists to predict what the patient's neuroanatomic and associated cognitive state will be at any given point in the future. They could tell whether and when the patient will develop speech impediments, memory loss, behavioral peculiarities, and so on."
The model could help confirm a patient's diagnosis of dementia, and prepare the patient for their future cognitive decline. This could help inform their future lifestyle and therapeutic choices.
If you were diagnosed with dementia, would you want to know how the disease was going to play out?
Photo: Fechi Fajardo/Flickr
Mar 22, 2012
Yes, definitely! I'm of retirement age and it would be helpful If I had some inkling of where my mind was headed, to know how to plan for good years and not waste them - spend more time with family, spend or save money, travel, try things I've wanted to but haven't taken the time to do them...We all go sometime; I would not get depressed but know that I was making the best of my time. My father died young of cancer, at age 52, and though I know he did have a few good years after he retired, I think that had he known he would die so young he would have done things differently. I know I would!
I would definitely want to know if/when my brain would start to deteriorate. I have just started taking advanced college classes for a PhD. These classes are very expensive, time consuming, and stressful. It should take between 3-4 years to achieve this degree and everyone says it is all worth it. However, I would NOT spend the time, money, or deal with the stress if I thought it would not work for me and I would soon start to decline mentally. I would not get depressed. I would use this time to get my stuff in order and prepare for the eventual results. I want to know and think it is realistic.
(nice to see that you are also subjected to spam) Anyway - Not sure whether or not it is a good thing to know ahead of time. Yes it may help you plan your future if you know you are 'losing it'. But, on the other hand, it may lead to an increased chance of depression - as now you know the inevitable outcome. My hope and wish is to see that this technology gets utilized toward research that will eventually STOP the spread of the dementia - whether caused by this protein or whatever other influence. The 'map' can show the progression and path, now we need a method to divert or completely block the 'enemy' here!
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I like how you flipped the idea of knowing your time is limited from being a depressing thing to being a helpful nudge to make the most of your time, thanks!
I'd have the same concern, it would be really hard not to feel down about your impending loss. As for eventually stopping the spread of dementia, that's one thing the paper's lead author actually addressed. He said his hope for these findings is that once drugs against dementia-causing proteins exist, physicians will be able to use this computational model to know precisely where to target the drugs.