If dementia is a general term that means thinking and memory has deteriorated to the point that it interferes with day-to-day function, what are the top three disorders that cause dementia in older individuals?
Did you think of Alzheimer’s disease? Good! Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia. Did you also think of vascular dementia or strokes? Excellent! Vascular dementia is the second most common cause. What about the third?
It’s not Lewy body dementia, although Lewy body dementia (encompassing both dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease dementia) is the fourth most common cause. Individuals with this disorder often have features of Parkinson’s disease, visual hallucinations of people and animals, fluctuations in attention and alertness, and they may act out their dreams in bed.
It’s not frontotemporal dementia. Individuals with this disorder are often in their 60s or younger. They generally have problems with behavior or language.
So what’s the answer? It’s LATE, which stands for limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy.
In LATE, a protein called TDP-43 (which stands for transactive response DNA binding protein of 43 kDa) accumulates in brain cells. Once it accumulates, it injures and ultimately destroys the cells.
LATE generally damages many of the same areas affected by Alzheimer’s disease. These regions include
- the amygdala, involved in emotional regulation
- the hippocampus, involved in learning and memory
- the temporal lobe, involved in words and their meanings
- portions of the frontal lobes, involved with keeping information in mind and manipulating it.
What are the symptoms of LATE?
Because LATE affects many of the same brain regions as Alzheimer’s disease, it often presents with similar symptoms, including
- memory loss (impairment in episodic memory)
- trouble finding and understanding words (impairment in semantic memory)
- trouble keeping information in mind (impairment in working memory)
How common is LATE?
By itself, LATE is estimated to cause about 15% to 20% of all dementias. Many people with dementia also have LATE pathology in addition to one or more other pathologies in their brain. For example, an individual may have the plaques and tangles of Alzheimer’s pathology, plus LATE pathology, plus ministrokes (vascular pathology). It turns out that about 40% of people with dementia have at least some LATE pathology in their brain. All of this means that LATE is, indeed, very common.
How is LATE diagnosed and why haven’t you heard of it before?
LATE can only be diagnosed with certainty at autopsy. However, we can get a hint that LATE might be present when an older individual shows the memory loss and word-finding problems common in Alzheimer’s disease, but special tests used to confirm the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s come up negative.
The reason that you — and most clinicians — haven’t heard about LATE before is that we didn’t realize just how common it is. It was only when we began obtaining results of special tests to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease in living individuals (such as with a lumbar puncture or amyloid PET scan) that we began seeing the prevalence of LATE.
Can LATE be treated?
Because LATE was (and still is) often confused with Alzheimer’s disease, it is almost certain that when the main drugs that are FDA-approved to treat Alzheimer’s disease were evaluated, individuals with LATE were included in those studies. This means that there is every reason to believe that drugs like donepezil (brand name Aricept), rivastigmine (Exelon), memantine (Namenda), and galantamine will all be effective for individuals with dementia due to LATE.
How can you find out more about LATE?
There has been an explosion of scientific papers about LATE in just the last few years. If you have a science background, you might want to peruse them or watch the wonderful scientific symposium on this disorder held by the National Institute on Aging (NIA). If you don’t have a science background, take a look at the NIA or Wikipedia pages on LATE.
Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren
Suppose you find fifty righteous people living there in the city—will you still sweep it away and not spare it for their sakes? (Genesis 18:24) And the Lord replied, “If I find fifty righteous people in Sodom, I will spare the entire city for their sake.” (Genesis 18:26)
And be sure to say, ‘Look, your servant Jacob is right behind us.’” Jacob thought, “I will try to appease him by sending gifts ahead of me. When I see him in person, perhaps he will be friendly to me.” (Genesis 32:20)
to say to you: ‘Please forgive your brothers for the great wrong they did to you—for their sin in treating you so cruelly.’ So we, the servants of the God of your father, beg you to forgive our sin.” When Joseph received the message, he broke down and wept. (Genesis 50:17)
“Forgive my sin, just this once, and plead with the Lord your God to take away this death from me.” (Exodus 10:17)
Pay close attention to him, and obey his instructions. Do not rebel against him, for he is my representative, and he will not forgive your rebellion. (Exodus 23:21)
Moses Intercedes for Israel The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a terrible sin, but I will go back up to the Lord on the mountain. Perhaps I will be able to obtain forgiveness for your sin.” (Exodus 32:30) So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Oh, what a terrible sin these people have committed. They have made gods of gold for themselves. (Exodus 32:31) But now, if you will only forgive their sin—but if not, erase my name from the record you have written!” (Exodus 32:32)
The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out, “Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. (Exodus 34:6) I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But I do not excuse the guilty. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren; the entire family is affected— even children in the third and fourth generations.” (Exodus 34:7)
And he said, “O Lord, if it is true that I have found favor with you, then please travel with us. Yes, this is a stubborn and rebellious people, but please forgive our iniquity and our sins. Claim us as your own special possession.” (Exodus 34:9)
just as he does with the bull offered as a sin offering for the high priest. Through this process, the priest will purify the people, making them right with the Lord, and they will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:20) Then he must burn all the goat’s fat on the altar, just as he does with the peace offering. Through this process, the priest will purify the leader from his sin, making him right with the Lord, and he will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:26)
Then he must remove all the goat’s fat, just as he does with the fat of the peace offering. He will burn the fat on the altar, and it will be a pleasing aroma to the Lord. Through this process, the priest will purify the people, making them right with the Lord, and they will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:31) Then he must remove all the sheep’s fat, just as he does with the fat of a sheep presented as a peace offering. He will burn the fat on the altar on top of the special gifts presented to the Lord. Through this process, the priest will purify the people from their sin, making them right with the Lord, and they will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:35)
The priest will then prepare the second bird as a burnt offering, following all the procedures that have been prescribed. Through this process the priest will purify you from your sin, making you right with the Lord, and you will be forgiven. (Leviticus 5:10) Through this process, the priest will purify those who are guilty of any of these sins, making them right with the Lord, and they will be forgiven. The rest of the flour will belong to the priest, just as with the grain offering.” (Leviticus 5:13)
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