Thursday, August 31, 2006

Doctors Should Heed Patients' Memory Complaints

(HealthDay News) -- Patients who complain that they are having trouble remembering things -- especially when they are at a genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease -- may be at higher risk for cognitive decline, a new study shows.

"There's a lot of confusion about memory complaints, and whether they should be taken seriously or not," study author Dr. Linda Ercoli, an assistant clinical professor at the University of California's Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior in Los Angeles, said in a prepared statement.

"The study is one of the first to show an association between memory complaints and underlying brain function decline, and although not every complaint will lead to Alzheimer's disease, it's important to listen when patients talk about their memory concerns," Ercoli said.

The findings appear in the April issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

The two-year study included 30 adults, aged 50 to 82, with memory complaints. At the start and end of the study, the participants' brain function was assessed using positron emission tomography (PET), which measures brain activity by revealing how much glucose is metabolized by the brain as fuel.

Among all the participants, greater frequency of memory complaints was associated with global brain decline, which appears to be part of the normal aging process, the study authors said.

However, people with APOE-4, a gene associated with Alzheimer's disease, who made more use of memory-compensation strategies (for example, lists and calendars) showed a greater decline in the temporal regions of the brain compared to those without APOE-4. The temporal regions are involved with memory functions.

"These findings may eventually help us identify which patients may benefit from clinical monitoring and early interventions to prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease," principal investigator Dr. Gary Small, professor at the Semel Institute, said in a prepared statement.

More information
The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about forgetfulness.

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