An artist’s brush strokes may reveal future Alzheimer’s disease

Researchers at Maynooth University in Ireland and the University of Liverpool studied 2,091 paintings from seven famous artists to determine how their painting changed over time. Four of the artists developed neurological diseases later in life: Willem deKooning and James Brooks developed Alzheimer’s; Salvador Dali and Norval Morrisseau developed Parkinson’s. Three aged normally: Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, and Claude Monet.

In the works by painters who later developed Alzheimer’s, the researchers discovered a change over time in the fractals that show up in their brush strokes.

Fractals are mathematically repeating patterns within patterns, found in nature and in human creations. They can be seen in the branching patterns of trees and rivers, the spiral formations of seashells and pineapples, the magnificent feathers of peacocks, and even in lightning and snowflakes. They can also be used like fingerprints to authenticate the works attributed to a particular artist.

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Jackson Pollock

A British physicist found that the paintings of Jackson Pollock, though they seem random and chaotic, contain fractals that are pleasing to the eye.

Scientists analyze the brushstrokes of each painting using a mathematical process called fractal analysis that measures geometric patterns by how often a shape repeats and at what scale. While artists might change painting styles over time, the fractals visible in their brush strokes usually stay the same.

However, this study revealed that artists who were developing a neurodegenerative disorder began to show changes in the fractal dimensions of their paintings, not visible in artists who aged normally.

To uncover fractal patterns in a painting, scientists put the image through a computer program that measures how many times brushstroke patterns repeat within the squares of a grid.

The work of artists who developed Alzheimer’s disease showed a decline in fractal dimensions beginning about the age of 40. In artists who developed Parkinson’s disease, their capabilities increased up until their late fifties and declined from then on. The results were published in the journal Neuropsychology.

How can these findings be applied to the average person? Most people are not professional artists and do not have a collection of works that can be compared over time. However, there are clues in these observations that may lead to other diagnostic methods. For example, earlier studies found that linguistic changes in writers and public speakers provide an early indication of cognitive deterioration.

For more info on Alzheimer’s and dementia, see Guide To Long Term Care


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Gamma oscillations for Alzheimer’s cure?

Recent experiments with mice found that their brains respond positively to a 40Hz pulse of light, the gamma frequency. The flashes of light brought about improvements in the function of the brain that plays an important part in Alzheimer’s disease. The technology might one day help treat Alzheimer’s disease in humans.

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The research was published in the journal Nature. A company called Cognito Therapeutics is pursuing further research to discover the effect of the pulses of light on human brains.

Meanwhile, at the request of the son of an Alzheimer’s sufferer, Samuel Sekandagu, a game developer with Overflow Games, produced a VR app which uses the Vive headset to deliver a 40Hz flash and 40Hz vibrations to the user’s eyes. The device must be evaluated for safety; the technique has not yet been tested on human beings, and some people are sensitive to flashing lights. But this new approach inspires hope for a non-invasive therapy in the future.

For more on Alzheimer’s disease, go to Guide To Long Term Care.

 


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How your nose can expose your risk of Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s researchers found that a person’s sense of smell declines strongly in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, suggesting a noninvasive “sniff test” for diagnosis.

The test can help identify the pre-dementia condition called mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which often progresses to Alzheimer’s dementia in a few years.

David Roalf, Assistant Professor at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, led a study in which scientists used a simple, commercially available test called the Sniffin’ Sticks Odour Identification Test. Subjects have 16 different odours to identify.

Along with the sniff test, researchers administered a standard cognitive test (the Montreal Cognitive Assessment) to 728 elderly people who had already been diagnosed by doctors as healthy, having mild cognitive impairment, or having Alzheimer’s disease.

The research team found that the sniff test, when combined with the cognitive test, increased diagnostic accuracy. The cognitive test alone identified 75% of people with mild cognitive impairment; after adding the sniff test, 87% of cases were identified.

Using the two tests together also helped the researchers to detect subjects with Alzheimer’s and those who were healthy, and to determine the degree of cognitive impairment.

Doctors believe it is more possible to help people with Alzheimer’s disease if they begin treatment before dementia symptoms appear.
Genworth 2015 Cost of Long-Term Care Survey Chart

Many people get Long Term Care Insurance to protect themselves and their families against the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s and other dementias.


 

 

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Using technology to keep track of Alzheimer’s patients

The city of Iruma in Japan has a new plan to keep track of people with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Each patient will have a little square QR code that is attached to a fingernail or toenail. The code carries personal information including a unique identification number, an address, and a telephone number. The information will help families find loved ones who have wandered away. The adhesive chips remain attached to the nail for about two weeks, even if they get wet.

alzWandering is a common problem with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. Sometimes confusion and memory problems cause them to get lost even in familiar surroundings. Various technologies are available for keeping track of elderly loved ones. Some methods resemble technology used for tracking packages, children, or pets.

A variety of GPS tracking devices can help a user find the location of a lost person. Some enable the user to set up a safe zone, with notification when the patient goes outside a designated area. Some trackers can keep track of several people at the same time.

An SOS button is another common feature, so the person wearing it can call for help. Some devices facilitate audio conversation between the patient and caregiver.

Many of these devices are battery operated, but the batteries are rechargeable and may keep a charge for as long as three years. Some are connected with services that operate by monthly subscription.

GPS trackers can be worn around the ankle or wrist, or as a pendant. They can be locked on. One model looks like a wristwatch. A small personal transmitter emits an individualized tracking signal. GPS Smart Sole wearable technology puts satellite monitoring in a shoe insert to allow real time tracking of the wearer in areas with T-Mobile coverage.

Some GPS tracking watches provide international monitoring. An alarm will sound if the watch and GPS receiver get separated.

MedicAlert ID bracelets carry important medical information, and provide emergency hotline and family notification.

Cellular tracking uses cellular towers to determine the person’s location. The device used is the size of a credit card, and the user can follow its location with a mobile application.

The caregiver will usually carry a small tracking device, smart phone, tablet or web browser to monitor the patient. Some apps provide updates through email and text.

Hospitals can use special technology to monitor entry and exit doors. A door can be programmed to lock down when a tagged patient approaches. In a home setting, door alarms and locks, motion detectors, and intercoms can be helpful in monitoring a patient.
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By 2050, the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease worldwide could triple, from 5.1 million to 13.8 million. About six in ten will wander. Traditional search and rescue operations can cost thousands of dollars an hour, and take days. New technology makes it possible to find a person much faster and with fewer people needed in the search. The tracking technology saves a lot of money and helps rescue people sooner, before they may get hurt.

For information on insuring for Alzheimer’s and dementia care, see the Guide To Long Term Care


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Parkinson’s disease connected to bacteria in the gut

Some researchers have found a link between Parkinson’s disease and the bacteria in the digestive tract. The discovery may lead to a new way of treating Parkinson’s, through the digestive tract, rather than the brain. Finely targeted probiotics may be the answer. The scientists published their findings in the journal Cell.

Parkinson’s disease causes brain cells to accumulate excessive amounts of the protein alpha-synuclein and then die. Physical and mental effects include loss of motor function, tremors, shaking, and more. It seems to be caused by environmental factors rather than heredity.

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The researchers performed three different experiments that showed the link between bacteria in the gut and Parkinson’s disease. The experiments were performed on two sets of mice that were genetically modified so they overproduced the protein alpha-synuclein. One set of mice had bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract; the other set had none. Read more about the experiments at Cell.

So Parkinson’s patients may have bacteria in their guts that contribute to the disease, or lack beneficial bacteria that could prevent the disease. These patients have some kinds of bacteria in their digestive tracts that are not found in healthy people, and they lack some kinds of bacteria found in healthy people.

Parkinson’s disease is a debilitating neurodegenerative disorder. One million people in the United States and up to 10 million worldwide have Parkinson’s, making it the world’s second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s.

Past research indicates bacteria in the gut may also be connected with other diseases, such as multiple sclerosis. There has been found a type of bacteria that is a major cause of stomach (gastric) and upper small intestine (duodenal) ulcers.

To find out about insuring for the risk of these disabilities visit the Guide to Long Term Care


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Groundbreaking ideas tested in high-tech Alzheimer’s facilities

A new concept is revolutionizing the care of patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The idea is an assisted living facility that is like a time capsule for residents. The home’s interior is designed to look like a small town in the 1940s. Each resident’s room is a small house, with a front porch light that turns on by timer every night. The carpet outside the rooms looks like grass, with “sidewalks” leading from one room to another. In the ceiling, fiber optics change from sunlight to stars for day and night. Chirping bird sounds make the space feel like outdoors. There is a movie theater, a barbershop, a saloon and salon and supermarket.

The idea is to set up an environment that nurtures memories, promotes functional independence, and stimulates new learning. This charming environment can trigger fond nostalgic memories that will help the residents relax. It also creates the feeling of living in a community rather than an institution.

The innovative environments are created by Jean Makesh, an occupational therapist who is CEO of The Lantern Group. The Lantern Group has Ohio facilities in Chagrin Falls, Ashtabula, and Madison, with plans to expand: website.

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For more information see “Alzheimer’s on GuideToLongTermCare.com

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Eli Lilly’s latest Alzheimer’s drug fails clinical trials

Eli Lilly’s drug solanezumab, designed to treat dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease, failed to show significant benefits in a large multi-national trial. The trial, which began in 2013, involved over 2,100 Alzheimer’s patients with mild dementia.

The pharmaceutical company announced that in the Phase 3 clinical trial of solanezumab, patients taking the drug did not show a significant slowdown in cognitive decline compared to those who took a placebo.

Solanezumab was designed to reduce the buildup of amyloid plaques in the brain. Some researchers have postulated that amyloid plaques may cause or contribute to the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The failure of this trial brings that theory into question.

Some scientists say there is still no convincing evidence of a clear relationship between amyloid plaques and dementia. Amyloid deposits begin to form up to twenty years before the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, but may not cause it. Some people who have the plaques do not show cognitive decline.

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While disappointing, the failure of this trial will not end efforts to find a cure. The results of this test will stimulate the scientific community to look in other directions. Even failed trials can provide helpful information and point to new avenues for research.

The next drug to be tested will be aducanumab by Biogen, which also attacks plaques but in a different way.

Alzheimer’s disease is involved in 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Almost 47 million people worldwide have Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, and many require special care whether at home or in an institution.

Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of Long Term Care Insurance claims.


 

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