Does poor sleep cause dementia?

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It makes sense that after a night of poor sleep, we might not be thinking as clearly the following day. But what about engaging in poor sleep habits throughout our lifetime? Could that put us at risk for long-term cognitive impairments, such as dementia?

Even in people who don’t seem to be cognitively impaired, poor sleep seems to correlate with subtle changes in the same brain proteins that are used to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. The question is why.

Possible explanations

There are several explanations, which are not mutually exclusive and could all be true:

  • Sleep is biologically important for reducing or clearing harmful neurodegenerative proteins from our brains. Exciting new studies in mice have suggested that sleep may clean the brain of amyloid beta, a protein linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

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Lewy Body Dementia experience inspires wife to further U-M’s offerings

The Rinne Lewy Body Dementia Initiative is underway

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Tamara Real and Carl Rinne enjoy a trip to Venice, Italy before his LBD diagnosis.

For more than two years Tamara Real and her husband, Carl Rinne, searched for reasons why Carl, a once vibrant man, was forgetful, had dizzy spells and was no longer interested in normal social activities.

Rinne was eventually diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) — a brain disease that impairs thinking and mobility. Unfortunately, knowing the cause of her former U-M professor husband’s decline didn’t bring Tamara Real much relief or understanding. Although LBD accounts for about 20 percent of all dementia cases in the United States, Real discovered that few people know anything about it.

“It’s very hard when no one understands what you’re going through,” she said. Continue reading

Doll therapy helps people with dementia

Woman_with_dollsThe feelings many people get when they hold a sleeping baby in their arms are ones of warmth, comfort and happiness. Doll therapy can be a very therapeutic activity for those with dementia who don’t have actual babies in their lives.

Many of the behaviors that we see in those with dementia – pacing, agitation, boredom, sadness – are related to the idea that they don’t have a feeling of purpose. Providing a doll to someone with dementia (especially mothers, but this works with males and non-mothers as well) brings out the natural desire and ability to express affection, to nurture and to care for someone.

Doll therapy has been associated with a number of benefits, including a reduction in episodes of distress, an increase in general well-being, improved appetite and more engagement with others around them.  Continue reading

Longer sentences as you age?

Study investigates whether conversational interaction style can indicate cognitive impairment

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It’s important to know if your mental ability is decreasing as you age.

A lot of money is being spent on sophisticated indicators of dementia. For example, research is increasingly focused on identifying Alzheimer’s disease at the mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, stage, or even earlier (the so-called pre-symptomatic stage). Those patients would then have early access to interventions and clinical trials with the latest treatments.

A pair of U-M researchers, while investigating older people with and without MCI, recently happened upon an observation that could help: the subjects with MCI were very chatty.

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Lewy body dementia

The Alzheimer’s disease and dementia series

Michigan Alzheimer's Disease Center has established support groups for people with Lewy body dementia and their caregivers.

In partnership with a caregiver, Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center is offering support groups for people with Lewy body dementia and their caregivers.

Lewy body dementia (LBD) is the second most common form of degenerative dementia in the United States. LBD affects an estimated 1.4 million Americans. The symptoms of LBD are often mistaken for more well-known diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. They are so similar that only 30-50% of all LBD cases are accurately diagnosed.

What makes LBD different? 

The presence of Lewy bodies—abnormal deposits of the protein alpha-synuclein that build up in the brain—distinguish LBD from other dementias. The Lewy bodies are tiny spherical structures that develop inside nerve cells. Their presence leads to the degeneration of brain tissue.  Continue reading

Living with memory loss

There are countless books and published research studies about dementia that give us insight into the

Members of the U-M Elderberry Club have mild memory loss, but that doesn't stop them from having fun, caring for each other and being creative.

Members of the U-M Elderberry Club have mild memory loss, but that doesn’t stop them from having fun, caring for each other and being creative.

disease. However, the best resource cannot be found on a shelf or an online article, but rather in the conversations we have with those who are living with dementia.

I recently visited the Elderberry Club—the first group of its kind in Michigan and the only group in the country that is designed exclusively for women with mild memory loss. The club meets at the U-M Health System Turner Senior Resource Center once a week. The women come together for support, discussion, friendship, creative expression and education.

During meetings, the women participate in a number of activities. They create art, volunteer in the community, write poetry, listen to music or presentations, and much more. The day I visited, the women were creating beautiful marbled ink artwork using the ancient Japanese technique called suminagash. Joy and laughter filled the room. Their personalities were vibrant and unique, and I could tell that they accepted and loved each other.  Continue reading