Has Grandma Changed?

Alzheimers patients over age 80 have less obvious cognitive changes

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Alzheimer's disease affects a spectrum of age groups. But the cognitive changes in those over the age of 80 seem to be less noticeable than other age populations.

Changes in brain shrinkage and memory loss in Alzheimer's patients may vary by a patient's age. Older patients tend to experience more subtle changes even with similar cognitive impairment as those who are younger.

"Talk to your doctor about grandparent's cognitive impairment."

Mark Bondi, the study author from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and VA San Diego Healthcare System, noted that individuals over the age of 85 make up the world's fastest growing population. He said his study showed that age has a dramatic effect on evident brain atrophy and cognitive changes.

Researchers examined 105 patients with Alzheimer's and 125 who did not have dementia, recruited through the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. Patients were grouped by age, into groups between 60 to 75 and those over the age of 80.

Each took tests that measured language, attention, information processing speed, function and ability to recall information. They also received brains scans in order to measure the thickness of the outer tissue layers of the brain.

Both groups had similar levels of cognitive impairment, but the changes were not as obvious in the group of patients over the age of 80. Compared to healthy individuals, function, memory, attention and processing speed was less abnormal among the group over 80 than the younger group.

Those over the age of 80 also showed less severe thinning of the brain as compared to the 60 to 75 age group. Bondi said this could be because the brain areas decrease in thickness with age so that there may be fewer differences in the brains of those over the age of 80 regardless of whether they are healthy or have Alzheimer's disease.

The research was published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

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Review Date: 
August 11, 2011
Last Updated:
August 13, 2011