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Twenty-five years ago, scientists knew next to nothing about this debilitating disease.
Loss of memory and mental faculties were considered a normal sign of aging. Since then, medical scientists have made tremendous strides in diagnosing Alzheimer disease, and have taken an active interest in investigating its causes in order to develop treatments and perhaps someday find a cure for this disease.
Advances made in the past 10 years are slowly improving the lives of people affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Doctors can more readily diagnose the disease, allowing for earlier intervention. Some treatments are now available in Canada to ease symptoms and improve quality of life. Public awareness of the disease has greatly increased and there is a greater support network available for people with the disease and for their caregivers. Still, there is no objective diagnosis of Alzheimer disease. Currently, diagnosis is a process of elimination that involves several kinds of tests—medical, neuropsychological, and brain scans—that can take days to complete. There is no effective treatment to halt the progress of the disease, and no cure.
However, the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health is home to world leaders in Alzheimer research who are dedicated to searching out its root causes in order to alleviate the suffering of people with Alzheimer disease. Working with the state-of-the-art imaging technology, these scientists—many of whom have achieved the highest honours of their profession—are finding innovative ways to look inside the living brains of people with Alzheimer disease. Experts are achieving a clearer picture than ever before of how brain cells communicate and what interferes with that communication. As a result, they are producing new knowledge essential to the development of effective treatments. Being able to see the problem is an essential step on the road to finding a solution.