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CNS Spectr. 2008 Feb;13(2 Suppl 2):1-20; quiz 22.

Creativity and dementia: emerging diagnostic and treatment methods for Alzheimer's disease.

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  • 1UCLA Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.


Alzheimer's disease research is beginning to yield promising treatments and prevention strategies. Current Alzheimer's disease treatments benefit symptoms, but do not appreciably alter the basic disease process. The new generation of Alzheimer's disease medications, however, will likely include disease-modifying treatments, which will slow disease progression or stop it entirely. These new treatments pursue four points of intervention: increasing the clearance of amyloid-beta42 (Abeta42) proteins in the brain, blocking Abeta42 production, decreasing Abeta42 production, and decreasing Abeta42 aggregation. Neurogenerative therapies are being explored as well, suggesting future treatments may not only stop disease progression but also reverse it. Risk factors for developing Alzheimer's disease and factors associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease have been identified. Future Alzheimer's disease management may come to resemble routine cardiovascular disease prevention and management, which involves the control of modifiable risk factors and the use of medications that decrease or stop underlying pathology. The hope is that such management will arrest the disease process before cognitive symptoms have begun. Like other neurologic illnesses, Alzheimer's disease has a profound impact on creativity. Alzheimer's disease attacks the right posterior part of the brain, which enables people to retrieve internal imagery and copy images. Alzheimer's disease patients may lose the ability to copy images entirely. However, people with Alzheimer's disease can continue to produce art by using their remaining strengths, such as color or composition instead of shapes or realism. Studying art and dementia is a model for identifying the strengths of psychiatric patients. Remarkably, art emerges in some patients even in the face of degenerative disease. In this expert roundtable supplement, Jeffrey L. Cummings, MD, offers an overview of recent advances in Alzheimer's disease research. Bruce L. Miller, MD, discusses creativity in patients with neurologic illnesses. Daniel D. Christensen, MD, discusses emerging Alzheimer's disease therapies. Debra Cherry, PhD, discusses the advocacy needs of Alzheimer's disease patients and their caregivers. In addition, Patricia Utermohlen, MA, provides a testimonial of the impact of Alzheimer's disease on an accomplished artist.

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