Alzheimer's disease was named after a German neurologist Alois Alzheimer. Dr. Alzheimer had a fifty-one year old patient Auguste D. Her family brought her to see him in 1901 when she had developed some memory problems. She was also having difficulty speaking and understanding things that were spoken to her. Her symptoms continued to deteriorate and she was bedridden within a few years. She died in the spring of 1906. After performing an autopsy, Dr. Alzheimer saw that there was dramatic shrinkage in the cortex of the brain. This is the area that involves memory, thinking, judgment and speech. While researching under the microscope, he saw fatty deposits in some of the small blood vessels, dead and dying brain cells and abnormal deposits in and around certain brain cells. Dr. Alzheimer referred to this case as a special case of “pre- senile dementia”. He thought of this case as a form of dementia in a patient that was not elderly. A few years later in 1910, Dr. Emil Kraepelin a psychiatrist known for his work with brain disorders proposed that this disease be known as Alzheimer's disease (Koepsell, 2007).
The cause for Alzheimer's is the loss of brain cells and changes in the outer layer of the brain or the cerebral cortex. Plaques and/or tangled fibers form around the nerve cells in the cerebral cortex. Plaques are protein deposits that build up between the nerve cells while tangles form inside the dying nerve cells. In a healthy brain, nerve cells pass information to each other's by using chemicals. Two of these chemicals are acetylcholine and acetyl cholinesterase.
Acetylcholine helps pass signals between the nerve cells in the brain. Acetyl cholinesterase controls the flow of signals by breaking down acetylcholine. As the disease progresses, the nerve cells are lost and the flow of chemical signals slows down. As these nerve cells are lost there is less acetylcholine to carry the signals. The acetyl cholinesterase is working as usual, which means fewer signals are being passed between the nerve cells.
There are a number of forms of mental tests that are used to help diagnose the disease. They are called the Wechsler Memory Scale, the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, the Graphomotor Alternation Test, and the California Proverb Test. Other tests have been formed to test the mathematical, vocabulary and judgment problems. The Mini-Mental State Examination is one of the oldest and most used exams. It tests by asking questions in several areas of cognition. There are possible points ranging from zero and thirty. The first ten are for questions regarding the date and present location (Wilkinson, 2004).
Then there are three points for immediate memory, then additional three points if they could repeat these three that were said to them. Then five points for subtracting numbers or correctly spelling a five-letter word backwards. The final nine points are earned for tasks such as following a three-part instruction, writing a sentence or copying a ...