Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Non-pharmacological Treatments for Memory Decline

It was recently reported on ABC news (Mon Oct 15, 2012) that drug companies are abandoning research into the development of new drugs for dementia.

The key reasons cited for this trend were the enormous costs involved in drug development and little success with disease modifying drugs, particularly for Alzheimer's Disease, the most common form of dementia.

With dementia widely recognised as a ballooning problem for not only in Australia but across the world over, this then raises the question of what other treatment options are out there?

In fact there are several other potentially promising lines of research investigating non-pharmacological treatments for memory decline. These non-drug based treatments share one thing in common, capitalising on the neuroplastic and regenerative properties of the brain.

One such treatment which has gained increasing attention is cognitive remediation, a psychological intervention which has been particularly investigated in people with schizophrenia. This form of intervention typically involves the use of brain training exercises and teaching of memory strategies, with research overall showing robust benefits for memory and cognition, as well as improvements in quality of life. Cognitive remediation has additionally recently been trialled in people at risk for dementia, with early promising results showing improvements in memory.

Another exciting new intervention is through using mild forms of brain stimulation. These brain stimulation techniques involve the application of small electric currents or brief magnetic pulses into the brain for the purpose of transiently modulating brain activity. These non-invasive forms of stimulation have been shown to be effective in treating depression, and there is now some preliminary research showing that they can also be used to enhance memory in older persons and people suffering from Alzheimer's Disease.

Though the research into these new non-pharmacological treatments to help improve memory is very much preliminary at this stage, with more research these treatments may become more widely available in the future. Most likely these new treatments will be used to supplement existing drug treatments, as additional “booster” treatments to help delay cognitive decline and improve quality of life.

ANTS conducts a Cognitive Remediation Programme based in Sydney's inner west. For more information please contact us.

Researchers at the University of New South Wales are also currently conducting a research trial investigating the use of mild brain stimulation for people at risk for dementia. More information about this trial is available at

Monday, 5 November 2012

An unconventional treatment for dementia?

Curry may help combat dementia!Curry may help combat dementia!

Scientists are investigating whether curcumin, a chemical in the spice turmeric, may help to prevent Alzheimer's dementia (AD), the most common form of dementia. Curcumin, a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, may play a role in clearing the brain of a protein called beta amyloid, which is known to be a causative factor in the development of AD.

India, the largest consumer of turmeric-based curries has the lowest rate of AD in the world.

AD and other forms of dementia are perhaps the single greatest health issue facing Australia in the 21st century, with almost 1 million people in Australia predicted to be living with dementia by 2050. A number of researchers and medical practitioners have recently spoken out about their concerns about the reduction in research dollars spent on finding ways to combat this insidious illness, given the morbidity and prevalence of dementia. Many pharmaceutical companies have stopped or reduced their dementia research programs due to the lack of efficacy of treatments to cure the disease or slow its progress.This is despite advances in neuroimaging technology and diagnostic techniques.

As with most illnesses, prevention is better than cure, and scientists are now focusing on finding ways to stop those at risk of developing AD from doing so.

A clinical trial has started at a Sydney retirement village where 100 residents will take supplements of curcumin and be given MRIs. Ralph Martins, a professor of ageing and Alzheimer's disease at Edith Cowan University, who is conducting the research along with the McCusker Alzheimer's Research Foundation, the Brain and Mind Research Institute and the Royal Prince Alfred Medical Imaging Services, said that:

"What we currently know as clinical Alzheimer's [dementia] is probably the end stage of disease, so the disease is cooking in people's brain for as much as 20 years and what we're finding in the healthy normal people is that a third of them will have this toxic amyloid in their brain".

While the research is promising, there are a range of other lifestyle factors, including diet, exercise and 'brain training' (or stimulation to keep the mind active) that are also important to consider in trying to prevent all forms of dementia.

Curry is certainly not enough, but it may be a good start!

If you are concerned that you or a loved one may be developing dementia, we at ANTS can help. The first step is to read our fact sheet on dementia at:

A thorough neuropsychological assessment is a key component of the diagnosis and management of dementia. If you would like to learn more about what we can offer here at ANTS, please don't hesitate to contact us.