News FocusNEURODEGENERATIVE DISEASES

Alzheimer's Treatments That Work Now

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Science  06 Nov 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5391, pp. 1030-1032
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5391.1030

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Summary

Behavioral research is providing therapies to relieve some of the suffering of Alzheimer's patients and their caregivers. Many of the recent advances in behavioral therapy arise from viewing Alzheimer's disease as a regression toward infancy: Patients lose the ability to hold a job, handle finances, pick out clothes, dress and bathe, control their bladder and bowels, and speak, all in faithful reversal of the order in which those skills were acquired as a child. As they make this backward march through development, Alzheimer's patients can be assigned "developmental ages." Researchers have found that by providing training appropriate to those ages, they can help the patients retain longer some of the skills they would otherwise lose.