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Friday, May 20, 2016

Late-onset dementia: a mosaic of prototypical pathologies modifiable by diet and lifestyle


Mark P Mattson

Abstract [Open Access Paper]
Idiopathic late-onset dementia (ILOD) describes impairments of memory, reasoning and/or social abilities in the elderly that compromise their daily functioning. Dementia occurs in several major prototypical neurodegenerative disorders that are currently defined by neuropathological criteria, most notably Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Lewy body dementia (LBD), frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and hippocampal sclerosis of aging (HSA). However, people who die with ILOD commonly exhibit mixed pathologies that vary within and between brain regions. Indeed, many patients diagnosed with probable AD exhibit only modest amounts of disease-defining amyloid β-peptide plaques and p-Tau tangles, and may have features of FTD (TDP-43 inclusions), Parkinson’s disease (α-synuclein accumulation), HSA and vascular lesions. Here I argue that this ‘mosaic neuropathological landscape’ is the result of commonalities in aging-related processes that render neurons vulnerable to the entire spectrum of ILODs. In this view, all ILODs involve deficits in neuronal energy metabolism, neurotrophic signaling and adaptive cellular stress responses, and associated dysregulation of neuronal calcium handling and autophagy. Although this mosaic of neuropathologies and underlying mechanisms poses major hurdles for development of disease-specific therapeutic interventions, it also suggests that certain interventions would be beneficial for all ILODs. Indeed, emerging evidence suggests that the brain can be protected against ILOD by lifelong intermittent physiological challenges including exercise, energy restriction and intellectual endeavors; these interventions enhance cellular stress resistance and facilitate neuroplasticity. There is also therapeutic potential for interventions that bolster neuronal bioenergetics and/or activate one or more adaptive cellular stress response pathways in brain cells. A wider appreciation that all ILODs share age-related cellular and molecular alterations upstream of aggregated protein lesions, and that these upstream events can be mitigated, may lead to implementation of novel intervention strategies aimed at reversing the rising tide of ILODs.