Not All Alzheimer’s Diagnoses Are the Same!
For many years, experts have been examining the advancement of Alzheimer’s through one basic model. Yet not all Alzheimer’s diagnoses are the same, presenting with a variety of symptoms and progression rates.
Now, however, a large, new collaborative study between the US, Canada, Sweden, and Korea is revealing some fascinating information to help us more accurately understand and treat Alzheimer’s disease. Rather than one universal, dominant diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, researchers have discovered that there are four unique variants that occur in as many as 18 – 30% of cases. This change in thinking is helping researchers more fully comprehend the variations in the disease from one person to another.
The findings are also significant in that they are allowing specialists to begin to individualize treatment plans based on the particular subgroup diagnosed.
The research study analyzed data from more than 1,600 men and women, identifying more than 1,100 who were either in various stages of Alzheimer’s disease or who were not cognitively impaired at all. Researchers followed these participants for more than two years, funneling each person who presented tau abnormalities into four distinct sub-groups.
What Are the Four Subgroups of Alzheimer’s Disease?
- Subgroup 1: Occurring in as many as one out of three diagnoses, this variant features the spreading of tau within the temporal lobe. The prevailing impact is on memory.
- Subgroup 2: Affecting the cerebral cortex, the second variant has less of an effect on memory and more on executive functioning, such as planning and carrying out actions. It impacts about one out of five individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
- Subgroup 3: In this variant, the visual cortex is impacted, affecting a person’s orientation to self, ability to distinguish distance, shapes, contours, movement, and an object’s location in relation to other objects. Much like the first variant, it occurs in about one in three diagnoses.
- Subgroup 4: This variant represents an asymmetrical spreading of tau within the left hemisphere of the brain, causing the greatest effect on language and developing in about one in five cases of Alzheimer’s.
Oskar Hansson, professor of neurology at Lund University and supervisor of the study, explains next steps: “…we need a longer follow-up study over five to ten years to be able to confirm the four patterns with even greater accuracy.”
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