Mayo Clinic Defines Alzheimer’s Form Affecting Younger People

Mayo Clinic researchers have defined a form of Alzheimer’s disease that affects people as young as their early 40s, presenting with atypical symptoms, and affecting a different part of the brain not usually associated with Alzheimer’s.
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The study was published in Brain Communications and described the progressive dysexecutive syndrome, which they found affects a person’s ability to multi-task, organise, and plan to an even greater degree than typical in Alzheimer’s disease.

While the study concluded the form of Alzheimer’s targeting younger people is not a new discovery, it was yet to be defined or studies, contributing to a potential mass misdiagnosis and delays in diagnosis as a result.

Mayo Clinic neurologist and lead author of the study, David Jones, M.D., said the researchers defined the clinical, imaging, pathologic, and genetic characteristics of a previously undescribed clinical presentation of Alzheimer’s disease that predominantly affects executive thinking.

“This strikes young individuals during their working years,” Dr. Jones said.

“They may lose their jobs and not qualify for disability benefits because the reason for their declining job performance is not identified as Alzheimer’s disease.

“Proper treatment and counselling are often delayed because of poor recognition by patients and providers.

“This is a condition that specifically targets executive brain function.

“Therefore, this has the potential to inform us about the biological mechanism required for executive brain functions and the mechanisms that cause Alzheimer’s disease,” he said.

During the study, researchers reported characteristics of 55 patients with a newly defined form of Alzheimer’s disease with unusual/atypical symptoms, which resulted in findings indicating a mean age of onset of 53.8 years, compared to a mean age of diagnosis of 57.2 years.

Kansas University Alzheimer’s Disease Center neurologist, Ryan Townley, M.D., said due to the young age of potential patients, patients with progressive dysexecutive syndrome are less likely to exhibit co-pathology similar to other age-related disorders.

“Losing a job due to problems organising, planning and executing tasks at work can be the first clue,” Dr. Townley said.

“A patient can often maintain daily activities, like driving a car, but will not do well in detailed cognitive testing due to executive functions needed to perform on these tests.

“There’s a mismatch with the cognitive abilities, and people think the patient is anxious or depressed and not trying,” he said.

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