Alzheimer's Disease

Essay by Shawn1969College, UndergraduateA+, April 2008

download word file, 7 pages 3.0

Alzheimer's is a very serious degenerative brain disease. It is a genetic illness that not only affects memory, but behavior and motor functions, as well. Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia. Dementia is the loss of memory, reasoning, judgment, and language. Dementia is diagnosed as a brain disorder that seriously affects a person's ability to carry out daily activities. Alzheimer's begins slowly and gets worse over time. Although symptoms can vary, the first problem many people notice is forgetfulness. Other symptoms are confusion, getting lost in familiar places, misplacing things, and having trouble with language.

Alzheimer's Disease affects especially the cerebral cortex and hippocampal regions in the brain. It appears, through research that low education levels and low verbal skills seemed to be indicative of those who would be most likely to develop Alzheimer's disease. Changes in gene activity from aging occur mainly in the regions of DNA that turns genes on, known as promoters.

Some people are more susceptible than others to age-related damage from oxygen free radicals-hyperactive molecules released by the chemical reactions that power cells. Most often, the genes that were affected by aging were genes that affect learning and memory, cellular energy production and the transmission of impulses between brain cells. The human brain consists of growing nerve cells that, through learning and thinking, establish complex networks and connections. Exercising the brain builds reserves of neural networks (2).

The changes in the physical attributes of the brain seen at autopsy are a waxy build-up surrounding nerve cells, thereby cutting off their connections. Also noticed are fibrillar clumps called tau that clog up the insides of neurons. "The reserves built up by a life of intellectual development appear to counter even the worst-looking damage to other cells." (2) Along with brain exercise, physical...