Although Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is most commonly diagnosed after age 65, changes in the brain may begin 10 – 20 years before symptoms appear. The pathological changes in the Alzheimer’s brain include a reduction of the neurotransmitters acetylcholine, dopamine, norepinephrine, glutamate and serotonin. There is an abnormal accumulation of proteins forming amyloid plaque on the neurons, which in turn leads to inflammation, cell death, and brain atrophy. While the plaque is causing cellular death outside the cell, the subsequent development of neurofibrillary tangles of Tau protein is occurring inside the cell body of the neuron. The combination of these events is what causes the loss of the ability of the neurons to communicate with each other and which compromises the functioning of whatever neurons that individual may have left. Read more.
Early stage Alzheimer’s disease first affects memory, language, and reasoning. This stage of the disease is often quite insidious since there are still enough functioning neurons in the brain to compensate for the cellular losses that are beginning to take place. Read more.
As the disease progresses, more amyloid plaque builds up on the neurons causing increased atrophy of the cerebral cortex. Additionally, the decrease in the production of the neurotransmitters necessary to transmit the messages of mood and memory continues. Read more.
The downward spiral of disease progression continues as the individual enters the Late Stage of Alzheimer’s disease. Comparison of either an MRI or CT scan would show global (all areas) atrophy of the cerebral cortex. Read more.
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