Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common degenerative disease of the brain. It is estimated, for example, that more than 5 million people have been clinically-diagnosed with AD in the United States. Inside the brain, the hallmark feature of AD is the aggregation of microscopic plaques and tangles in/around nerve cells that disrupt their functioning, ultimately leading to the widespread neuronal loss and brain atrophy. As the physical changes inside the brain evolve, individuals may experience gradual mental changes, often involving memory decline and forgetfulness as the most prominent initial symptom. As the memory problems become more pronounced, changes in other cognitive areas tend to emerge, such as declines in language or visuospatial functioning.
Although there is no cure for AD at present date, some treatments are available that may help slow down symptom progression. A neuropsychologist can contribute valuable information as part of an individual’s health care team to help clarify a diagnosis of AD, while considering other potential conditions that might be causing mental declines. In addition, a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation can yield valuable information for the patient and treatment providers to monitor progression over time and guide personalized behavioral modifications and strategies that enhance the quality of life for those who are living with Alzheimer’s disease and their family members.