Alzheimer's Disease

Easterseals and the Brain Plasticity Institute: Working Together

The Issue

  • Brain Health LogoAlzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and the 5th leading cause of death for those aged 65 and older.
  • Alzheimer’s is the only cause of death among the top 10 in America without a way to prevent, cure, or even slow its progression.
  • Deaths from Alzheimer’s increased 66 percent between 2000 and 2008, while deaths from other major diseases, including the number one cause of death (heart disease), decreased.
  • In 2010, 14.9 million family members and friends provided 17 billion hours of unpaid care to those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
  • The economic value of the unpaid care provided to those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias totaled $202.6 billion in 2010.
  • More than 60 percent of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high; one-third report symptoms of depression.

Taking on Alzheimer’s disease

Easterseals has engaged the San Francisco-based Brain Plasticity Institute in collaboration with the brain fitness company Posit Science Corporation, to help us develop:

  • Online assessment tools to calibrate risk for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) in the general population, and in a special population of individuals known to be at higher genetic risk for earlier AD onset.
  • Online cognitive training exercises targeting the brain systems and processes known to specifically contribute to risk. Exercises have already shown in multiple peer-reviewed studies to significantly improve brain activation, processing speed, attention, memory and sensory processing in older adults as well as similar improvements among individuals diagnosed with pre-dementia mild cognitive impairment and, with these tools in hand.
  • To help us conduct a large-scale, open, online trial to show the extent to which such exercises diminish Alzheimer's disease risk, slow its progression, and/or prevent Alzheimer’s disease among individuals who are at high risk for early onset of Alzheimer’s disease and in the general population.

The Brain Plasticity Institute: Project Scope

From a brain plasticity perspective, it should be possible to substantially delay the onset of and, with significant probability, prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Here, we describe a brain plasticity based approach designed to re-activate and thereby re-vascularize brain areas whose dysfunction and immunological compromise are strongly linked to disease genesis. Our training program would also upregulate, through intensive training, the production and release of a key neurotransmitter, noradrenaline,1 known to promote stronger immune response activity in the brain. Our therapeutic strategy would also broadly grow and restore functional and physical brain processes known to underlie declines in ability among older-aged individuals known to be at risk for "mild cognitive impairment," and for Alzheimer's disease itself.

To implement this strategy, we shall build the elaborate tool set -- much of which is in hand, and has already been demonstrated to drive key behavioral and neurological changes -- required to assess levels of risk in -- then intensively train -- adult individuals of all ages. We shall then conduct large scale internet trials among individuals known to be genetically at risk for Alzheimer’s onset at a relatively young age and in the broader senior population, with sensitivity to a long list of neurological or psychiatric burdens that may contribute to greater risks of AD onset.

Our goal is to increase the brain spans of older individuals so that they come closer to matching their lifespans. The accomplishment of this goal for the hundreds of millions of individuals in need of help can positively transform the course of aging in America and in the world. As medicine prolongs the average human life, the assured prolongation of an active, effective brain, capable of sustaining cognitive, social and action-control abilities, our happiness, and our thriving independence is one of our greatest personal and societal needs.

We strongly believe that this does not have to happen.

Help us help scientists and technologists at the Brain Plasticity Institute and Posit Science meet this great human challenge.

  1. Also called ‘norepinephrine’
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