By Dieter Edbauer, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich
‘I’m so stressed!’ or ‘it’s just old age!’ are reassuring excuses that seniors may give themselves when they notice difficulties in recalling new memories. But deep inside, many are worried it might be Alzheimer’s and will go to great lengths to conceal their memory problems from friends and family. In the sad case of Alzheimer’s disease, this won’t be possible for long. As more memories get lost, mood swings and aggression set in, and patients gradually lose their independence and control over their bodily functions. By then the brain is filled with toxic deposits called plaques and tangles, consisting of the two proteins Ab and tau, respectively. Many neurons have lost synaptic connections or have died altogether, resulting in a shrunken brain. Unfortunately there is still no cure and current treatments are only moderately effective.