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Neurobiol Aging. 1998 May-Jun;19(3):173-89.

Evolution in the conceptualization of dementia and Alzheimer's disease: Greco-Roman period to the 1960s.

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Institute for Brain Aging and Dementia, Department of Psychobiology, University of California, Irvine, 92697-4540, USA.


Most histories of senile dementia commence with Alois Alzheimer's description in 1906 of the first case of Alzheimer's disease, yet the history of senile dementia before 1906 is quite rich, dating back to the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers and physicians. Over the 2500 years since ancient times, the concept of senile dementia has evolved from a rather vague notion that mental decline occurred inevitably in old age, to become defined today by a distinct set of clinical and pathological features with the potential for treatment and prevention within grasp. Throughout history, many elderly individuals with unpredictable behavior were sequestered in institutions, and the line between mental disorders and senile dementia was hazy at best. The identification of Alzheimer's disease at the onset of the 20th century was a turning point for the understanding of senile dementia, and the concepts and histological findings presented by the early researchers of Alzheimer's disease remain relevant still today. Indeed, these early findings are proving to be a continuing source of insight, as many of the issues debated at the turn of the century remain unresolved still today. This paper thus traces the history of the evolution of our current conceptualization of Alzheimer's disease from the amorphous Greco-Roman concept of age-associated dementia.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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