Chaotic, Illogical Thinking Signals Alzheimer

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Old 09-Feb-2010
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Post Chaotic, Illogical Thinking Signals Alzheimer

Older people whose thinking seems chaotic or illogical or who stare into space may be ripe candidates for Alzheimer's, says a new study.

"When older people are evaluated for problems with their thinking and memory, doctors should consider also assessing them for these mental lapses," said senior study author James E. Galvin, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis (WUSMSL).

These mental lapses, also called cognitive fluctuations, are common in a type of dementia called dementia with Lewy bodies.

But researchers previously did not know how frequently they occurred in Alzheimer's patients and what effect these fluctuations might have on their thinking abilities or assessment scores.

The study involved 511 people with an average age of 78 years. Researchers interviewed the participant and a family member, evaluated participants for dementia and tested their memory and thinking skills.

People with three or four of the following symptoms met the criteria for having mental lapses -- feeling drowsy or lethargic all the time or several times per day despite getting enough sleep the night before; sleeping two or more hours before 7 p.m.; having times when the person's flow of ideas seems disorganised, unclear, or not logical; staring into space for long periods.

Twelve percent of participants with dementia had mental lapses. Of 216 people with very mild or mild dementia, 25 had mental lapses. Of the 295 people with no dementia, only two had mental lapses, said a university release.

Those with mental lapses were 4.6 times more likely to have dementia than those without mental lapses. People with mental lapses also tended to have more severe Alzheimer's symptoms and perform worse on tests of memory and thinking skills than people who did not have lapses.

The study was published in the January edition of Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

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