Alzheimer's Disease

Haley Freeze A-3

Overview

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s is a disease that leads to problems with memorizing, thinking and behavior. It also accounts for over 60% of all dementia cases, making it the most common form of dementia. People impacted by this disease will slowly lose the ability to memorize and store information because their brain is being smothered by plaque.

Symptoms of This Disease

Everyone experiences minor loss of memory at some point and time, but that does not necessarily mean they have Alzheimer’s. There are several warning signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Some of the main ones include...

  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks: Short-term memory loss is usually the first symptom of Alzheimer's disease. This includes forgetting how to do everyday tasks such as getting money out of an ATM or filling out a check.
  • Problems with language: This is also a common sign of Alzheimer's disease. This symptom includes forgetting everyday words or common terms used on a daily basis. It is common for people to forget names or other words every once in a while, but this symptom involves people forgetting extremely common words and phrases.
  • Extremely poor judgement: This symptom does not involve people making bad decisions every once in a while, rather it involves people not dressing appropriately or trusting a complete stranger.
  • Disorientation: This symptom involves people forgetting or not knowing where they are or what time it is. This also includes extreme confusion, suspicion, fear or dependency
  • Severe mood swings: This includes random emotional outbursts and severe changes in behavior.

Who does Alzheimer's affect?

According to the Alzheimer’s Association there are over 5 million Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. This source also states that nearly 500,000 lives are lost annually due to this disease and approximately one out of every three elderly people dies due to Alzheimer’s or other forms of memory loss. This data is what causes Alzheimer's disease to be the 6th leading cause of deaths in the United States.

Personal Accounts

Luckily, I do not have any close relatives living with Alzheimer's disease. However, when I was in elementary school my great aunt, who I didn't see often, had Alzheimer's. She had apparently had the disease for a while before she was diagnosed, so when we were finally notified the disease was already in its' later stages. I remember going to her house once with my grandma and she was walking around the house without clothes. At the time I didn't realize she had a disease, so I was just grossed out by it, but now that I know more about Alzheimer's disease I realize that she wasn't aware that not wearing clothes was considered inappropriate. I also remember her calling my grandma by the wrong names because she didn't remember who she was. She passed away a few years ago, but she was my only relative that I know had Alzheimer's disease.

Methods of Treatment

The fact that Alzheimer's is such a complex disease makes it nearly impossible to completely cure it with one treatment. This is why most treatment methods target eliminating symptoms of the disease rather than trying to cure it altogether. There are several medications that focus helping people maintain mental function and memory. These medicines include Donepezil, Rivastigmine, and Galantamine. Treatments mainly target fixing behavioral symptoms in order to make it easier for caretakers to help people with Alzheimer's.

Connection to the Biological Levels of Analysis

1. Emotions and behavior are products of the anatomy and physiology of the nervous and endocrine systems

  • This principle involves the effect of brain localization. Alzheimer's disease is caused by the brain shrinking and being smothered by plaque proteins. Parts of the brain are shut down and disabled by the plaque proteins. This causes the functions of those parts of the brain to become altered and in most cases stopped altogether.

2. Patterns of behavior can be inherited

  • Alzheimer's is a disease that can be passed down from generation to generation. If Alzheimer's is common in someones family it is very likely that they will inherit the disease at some point in their life.

3. Animal research may inform our understanding of behavior

  • According to Understanding Animal Research mice can be used to mimic Alzheimer's disease and develop possible treatments for the disease. Whenever mice are altered to mimic Alzheimer's disease they seemed to burrow and dig less than unaffected mice. This mimics the symptoms of people with Alzheimer's because they often forget how to do everyday tasks and processes.

Connection to the Cognitive Levels of Analysis

1. People are information processors and mental processes guide behavior

  • People with Alzheimer's disease lose the ability to perform common tasks and display normal behavior. This is because their brain is unable to function properly and the mental processes are basically stopped. This shows how mental processes guide behavior because when the brain is altered, so are peoples actions and behavioral characteristics.

2. The mind can be studied scientifically

  • Researchers can use brain scans to study and compare the brains of normal people to people with Alzheimer's disease. This helps them develop possible treatment methods and medicines that could eventually produce a cure for Alzheimer's disease.

3. Cognitive processes are influenced by social and cultural factors

  • Memory is considered a cognitive process and people with Alzheimer's have an extremely limited capacity for memory. This influences their ability to socialize and communicate with others because they are unable to remember common words, tasks, processes and names of people they used to know.

Citations

"Blood Test for Alzheimer's Detects the Disease with 90% Accuracy." ZME Science. N.p., 10 Mar. 2014. Web. 20 Jan. 2015. <http://www.zmescience.com/research/alzheimer-blood-test-42354/>.


"Scientific Images." National Institute on Aging. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Jan. 2015. <http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/scientific-images>.


"Switzerland Hosts International Summit On Alzheimer's Disease." The Protein Epidemic. N.p., 13 Nov. 2014. Web. 20 Jan. 2015. <http://alzheimerdisease.tv/switzerland-hosts-international-summit-on-alzheimers-disease/>.


"Why?" Alzheimer's Disease. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Jan. 2015. <http://www.understandinganimalresearch.org.uk/why/human-health/alzheimers-disease/>.