Over the past few years, research has identified subjective cognitive decline (SCD) as a precursor to mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and potentially the earliest clinical indication of Alzheimer’s. Awareness of this condition can have key clinical implications not only for the patient, but also for identifying a new population of subjects for clinical trials in the prevention of Alzheimer’s. Researchers, are quick to say however, that not every person with symptoms of SCD will progress to Alzheimer’s.

Researchers recently presented the results of studies on SCD at the 2013 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference. In one study conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital which included 189 clinically normal individuals older than 65, the study found that the patients’ subjective cognitive concerns about their memory and everyday life correlated with their amyloid brain scans – the greater the amount of concerns individuals had was related to a greater amount of amyloid buildup in their brains. This could pose a greater risk for eventual progression to Alzheimer’s.

Many of the presenters at the the conference, however emphasized that the findings need to be interpreted carefully and not cause confusion between normal aging and progression to dementia. “These results are not meant to worry the public that, if they forget where the keys are, they’re on the path to Alzheimer’s disease,” said Rebecca Amariglio, PhD. a clinical nuero-psychologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and lead author of the study involving amyloid brain scans. “Some signs that I think would be typical of normal aging are walking into a room and forgetting why; maybe having trouble remembering the names of people that they’ve only met once or twice. And that, when asking friends or people of the same age that these changes seem to be pretty consistent with other people the same age.” Some symptoms that Dr. Amariglio would consider worrisome would include getting lost in familiar surroundings, or having trouble following the plot of a TV program or book due to memory.

Dr. Amariglio stressed that these findings are important to researchers who are looking to identify people who may be years away from clinical symptoms, “But may be appropriate for drug trials in the near future…. to help eventually prevent Alzheimer’s disease.”    Neurology Reviews  September 2013

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