When my father started to have problems with his memory, my understanding of Alzheimer’s was that it was a single and identifiable disease, and that we were close to finding a cure. The 2007 version of the U.S. National Institute on Aging (NIA) Progress Report on Alzheimer’s Disease presents a more open-ended and nuanced view of memory loss.
The wording in the new report reflects the evolving views of many of the researchers I’ve talked with. Phrases such as “vigorous assault” and “fight against AD” featured in the 2005-2006 version of the report have been replaced with phrases like “a richer understanding” and “our growing appreciation of its complexities.”
Some of the key changes in thinking highlighted in the report are:
- “it is increasingly evident that there is no clear line between a completely healthy brain and a diseased brain”
- “the course of AD varies from person to person, as does the rate of decline”
- “AD has no single cause but develops from multiple factors that interact over many years.”
2008 brought the failure of several highly-anticipated Alzheimer’s drugs in clinical trials, and many scientists and policymakers acknowledge the need for a new approach. It will be interesting to see if the newer, more holistic view presented in the NIA report will lead to a shift in research priorities.