The human brain is a complex and wonderful thing, however, with slight changes in structure, there can be marked differences between “normal” and “abnormal” behavior. Worldwide, it is estimated that over 24 million people have dementia (Ballard et al., 2011).
One of the pathological changes that occur in the brain that is associated with a form of dementia is known as Alzheimer’s Disease. According to Marieb and Hoehn (2010), Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common and progressive diseases that affect the brain. It can occur in one of two forms: early and late onset.
The prevalence of Alzheimer’s Disease among individuals over the age of 65 years ranges between 5 and 15 percent; among those 85 years and over, the disease contributes to half of deaths, and occurs more often in women than men, with 40 new cases reported each hour (Cummings & Cole, 2002). Individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease present with symptoms including memory loss, shortened attention span, confusion, ultimate language loss, personality changes, and possible hallucinations (Qualls, Berryman, Williams, & Rogers, 2004).
The destruction of neurons and shrinking of brain cells can lead to many of the symptoms present in Alzheimer’s Disease. The vulnerable parts of the brain, including the hippocampus and the basal forebrain, when damaged can lead to challenges in memory recall and cause thinking errors (Marieb & Hoehn, 2010). Damage through the loss of neurons in the forebrain can affect cognitive skills due to an imbalance in the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, and amyloid 42 is thought to be associated with communication difficulties (Marieb & Hoehn, 2010).
Ballard, C., Gauthier, S., Corbett, A., Brayne, C., Aarsland, D., & Jones, E. (2011). Alzheimer's disease. The Lancet, 377(9770), 19-25. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)61349-9
Cummings, J. L., & Cole, G. (2002). Alzheimer disease. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 287(18), 2335-2338.
Marieb, E. N., & Hoehn, K. (2010). Human anatomy and physiology (8th ed.). London, UK: Pearson Education.
Qualls, S., Berryman, K., Williams, A., & Rogers, M. (2004). Recognizing early symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. The Gerontologist, 44(1), 406.