Updated: Aug 11, 2021
Written & Researched by Ogugua Nwaise
“The Peculiar Disease,” described by German psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer in 1906, infamously involves memory disappearance or “forgetting things.” Most have heard of Alzheimer’s and the myths surrounding the disease, as it is commonly displayed on TV and in movies. However, the depictions over media are inaccurate at most; the reality remains that Alzheimer’s is a deadly disease with no known cure. Alzheimer’s earned its nickname because of its peculiarity and underlying pathology; the question of the disease’s root remains unanswered, building a dilemma as the merciless disease causes brain cell death at an extensive scale.
As some people age, their brains begin to deteriorate, provoking loss of memory alongside other problems. Misconceptions about AD insist that older people are the only ones living with Alzheimer’s disease. Although Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of memory loss among the elderly, the risk for Alzheimer’s does increase with age — it can meet people in their 30s, the 40s, or 50s (Lombardo). Researchers and scientists alike are unsure of the exact cases for AD; however, many suggest that lifestyle and genetics play a factor. Alzheimer’s disease occurs because the brain is under attack — through microscopes, scientists observe numerous plaques and tangles of an unknown substance causing the disruption (In).
The effects of AD stir a person’s cognitive abilities and vary per individual through time. Alzheimer’s symptoms grow far beyond the standard memory loss prominent during age progression. Memory loss in AD patients severely conflicts with daily living; this, in turn, interferes with other cognitive abilities. At earlier deaths, the neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPSs) exhibited in patients in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are associated with an accelerated cognitive impairment, including severe dementia and hallucinations, which develop progressively into patterns of brain lesions. Definitively, symptoms range from and are not limited to apathy (multidimensional and unidimensional), depression, paranoia, delusional ideation, anxiety, disturbance of consciousness, irritability, and more. The measured symptoms are classified in scales, including (1) neuropsychiatric inventory, (2) behavioral pathology, (3) apathy evaluation, and (4) diagnostic and statistical manual for mental disorders (Chen). Eighty percent of AD patients range in demonstrating behavioral and psychological symptoms, reducing the quality of life of patients and caregivers (Chen). Altogether, the clinical understanding of the mechanisms in which patients with Alzheimer’s undergoing NPS take place is limited, thus authorizing extensive review and further efforts to strategize the quality and accuracy of neuropsychiatric technology use.
Figure 1: Graph about the psychiatric characteristics of AD
➔ Caption: Each rise of the curve represents a significant increase in the prevalence of NPSs (neuropsychiatric symptoms) compared to the previous stage.
Figure 2: Neuroimaging findings that correlate to the symptoms of Alzheimer’s
➔ Caption: The detailed neuroimage illustrates the brain lesion pattern of apathy.
Figure 3: The brain lesion patterns of other neuropsychiatric symptoms in Alzheimer’s disease.➔ Caption: The degree of damage differs per region
and symptom. The most commonly damaged area as shown is
agitation, irritability, disinhibition, and eating disturbances.
Over 50 million people live with dementia as the global population ages, a number projected to increase to 152 million by 2050. Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects families; its symptoms engulf loved ones causing emotional turmoil to those who watch as its victims slip away gradually. With ongoing research for knowledge amongst scientists, there is hope. Today, advances in genetics and cell biology through extensive research have become highly collaborative; many studies are targeting ways to identify people at risk for AD to diagnose patients early on the timeline. In an effort from researchers working to gain insight into the cause of Alzheimer’s, the goal is that it will allow them to develop effective ways to treat AD but prevent it from developing at all (Lombardo 9).
In conclusion, the relationship between the NPSs and the mechanisms of AD remains unclear — very few effective and safe treatments exist, therefore contributing to the lack of reliable and effective measurements with symptom-specific patients. More studies are needed to solve the limitations in the pathological mechanisms of AD as it will aid patients in the future. Because there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, the new aim is for doctors to remain attentive to the pathological superstitions of neuropsychiatric symptoms. Furthermore, misconceptions remain that a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is equivalent to the end of a person’s life; however, those battling AD live meaningful lives and use their chance in earlier stages to cater to unique interests.
Chen, Yaojing, et al. “Brain Mechanisms Underlying Neuropsychiatric Symptoms in Alzheimer’s Disease: A Systematic Review of Symptom-General and –specific Lesion Patterns.” Molecular Neurodegeneration, vol. 16, no. 1, June 2021, pp. 1–22. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1186/s13024-021-00456-1.
“In Pursuit of Memory: The Fight Against Alzheimer’s.” Publishers Weekly, vol. 264, no. 36, Sept. 2017, p. 84. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,shib&db=edsglr&AN=edsglr.A505468129&site=eds-live&scope=site.
Lombardo, Jennifer. Alzheimer's Disease: A Difficult Diagnosis, Greenhaven Publishing LLC, 2017. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/gwinnetttech/detail.action?docID=5413142.