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Project to map the brain could unlock more Alzheimer's answers

In the fall, we posted about the insidious disease Alzheimer's and the manner in which it impacts victims and their families in New Jersey. We talked about the frightening reality Alzheimer's victims live in as prisoners in their body and mind. At that time, we discussed how of the 5.4 million individuals living with Alzheimer's, there are about 200,000 victims that begin developing symptoms prior to 65 years old. This is known as early-onset Alzheimer's, and is included on the compassionate allowance list for faster receipt of Social Security Disability benefits.

However, once an individual is diagnosed with this devastating and largely little-understood disease, it only continues to get worse. A doctor and the associate director of the University of Kansas Alzheimer's Disease Center says of research and innovation surrounding this disease, "For the last 100 years, we've had to wait for somebody to die before we could look at their brain to see if the markers of Alzheimer's were present. In the last five or six years, new tools to identify those changes in the brains of living people have been developed, and those are through imaging techniques."

However, this doctor is hopeful that soon there will be more by way of prevention and treatment. He is hopeful about the enormous progress that could be made in the project to map the human brain. The BRAIN initiative, announced this week by President Obama, pledges $100 million in research funding to better understand how the brain works. This research will be monumental in understanding, treating, preventing and possibly curing serious injuries, diseases and conditions located in the brain.

Hopefully, one day in the not-too-distant future, Alzheimer's will be better understood so that more victims in New Jersey and elsewhere can be spared this fate.

Source: Kansas City Business Journal, "Q&A: What the BRAIN Initiative means for Alzheimer's research," Brianne Pfannenstiel, April 3, 2013

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