June 22, 2021 by Dean Bellefeuille

happy-adult-daughter-with-senior-mother

For decades, experts have been exploring the development of Alzheimer’s through one basic model, even though not all Alzheimer’s diagnoses present with the same symptoms and progression.

Now, however, a large, collaborative new study between the US, Canada, Sweden, and Korea is uncovering some fascinating information to help us better understand and treat Alzheimer’s disease. Rather than one universal, dominant diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, there are actually four distinct variants that occur in as many as 18 – 30% of cases. This shift in thinking is helping researchers better understand the variations in the disease from person to person.

The findings are also significant in that they’re allowing specialists to begin to individualize treatment plans based on the particular subgroup diagnosed.

The study looked at data from over 1,600 individuals, identifying over 1,100 who were either in various stages of Alzheimer’s or who were not cognitively impaired at all. Following these participants over a two-year period allowed researchers to funnel each individual who presented tau abnormalities into four distinct sub-groups:

  • Subgroup 1: Occurring in as many as one in three diagnoses, this variant involves the spreading of tau in the temporal lobe. The predominant impact is on memory.
  • Subgroup 2: Impacting the cerebral cortex, the second variant has less of an effect on memory and more on executive functioning, such as planning and carrying out actions. It affects about one in five Alzheimer’s patients.
  • Subgroup 3: The visual cortex is impacted in this variant, affecting a person’s orientation to self, ability to distinguish distance, shapes, contours, movement, and an object’s location in relation to other objects. As with the first variant, it occurs in about one in three diagnoses.
  • Subgroup 4: This variant represents an asymmetrical spreading of tau in the left hemisphere of the brain, causing the greatest impact on language and occurring in about one in five cases of Alzheimer’s.

Oskar Hansson, supervisor of the study and professor of neurology at Lund University, explains next steps: “…we need a longer follow-up study over five to ten years to be able to confirm the four patterns with even greater accuracy.”

Regardless of which type of dementia a senior has, At Home Independent Living’s dementia care aides receive extensive training in helping manage any challenges while focusing on his or her strengths. Contact us at (315) 579-HOME (4663) and let us develop a plan of care to enhance life for a senior you love with dementia.