As has been mentioned in previous healthy memory blog posts, autopsies have found corpses whose brains have been wreaked with amyloid plaque and neurofibrillary tangles, yet who never exhibited any symptoms or behaviors indicating Alzheimer’s. Yet it is these very substances that provide for a definitive diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. So at best they are a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for Alzheimer’s. See the healthy memory blog post, “The Myth of Alzheimer’s” to learn whether this is actually a disease and whether a drug solution to this problem is possible. Unfortunately, the money is in the drugs, so that’s where the effort is concentrated.
The explanation offered is that these people with the substances defining the disease, but without the symptoms of the disease, have build up a cognitive reserve. In other words their brains have a reserve to draw upon that allow them to circumvent the symptoms of the disease. This is very likely true and this provides strong evidence that we should start early and continue to build this cognitive reserve throughout our lives.
However, I believe that something else is at work, and I believe that is neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity refers the ability for the nervous to rebuild and repair itself. The existence of neuroplasticity is a fairly new finding. When I was a graduate student the dogma was that neural damage could not be repaired, and this dogma remained in effect until fairly recently.
To learn more about neuroplasticity enter “neuroplasticity” into the healthy memory blog search box. I wish more research would be put into the preventive and curative effects of neuoplasticity. As you’ll see if you read or reread “The Myth of Alzheimer’s,” some knowledgeable people do not believe that a drug cure is possible, but that there are other effective avenues to pursue regarding Alzheimer’s or dementia.
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