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Doctor Neil Thomas

World Alzheimer’s Day – Q&A with Dr. Neil Thomas


If you are concerned about changes in your memory and thinking, talk to your family doctor about memory testing.
According to the World Health Organization, there are 47.5 million people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias worldwide. On this World Alzheimer’s Day (September 21), Dr. Neil Thomas shared some of his expertise by answering a few questions.
What is the difference between Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia?
Dementia is a general term to describe someone who has problems with memory and thinking that are impacting their day-to-day life. Alzheimer’s is simply the most common type of dementia.
Alzheimer’s is different from other dementias because it is caused by two proteins—tau and beta-amyloid—that clump together and kill off other brain cells over time. Other dementias have different causes, such as strokes or different types of proteins in the brain that become abnormal.
What kind of impact does Alzheimer’s have on a person’s ability to live independently?

With Alzheimer’s, memory is one of the first areas where patient starts to have problems. They may start to forget things people have told them, or may forget to do a task. As Alzheimer’s progresses, more complex skills like driving or balancing a checkbook may require assistance. In later stages of the disease, you start to notice people forgetting how to get ready in the morning or take care of themselves hygienically. This is when they typically require more assistance.
What kind of research is being done to support those who have Alzheimer’s?

One recent piece of work that excites me is a blood sample study that was published by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis. The study essentially shows that we might be able to use blood samples to detect Alzheimer’s changes in a patient’s brain. This would be a game changer because, outside of an autopsy, the only way to diagnose Alzheimer’s is based on observation of clinical symptoms. If we can detect Alzheimer’s through a blood sample, that would make diagnosis much simpler and faster, so we can move to appropriate treatments sooner.
To learn more about Alzheimer’s and dementia, join us on September 30 for the launch of the University of Ottawa’s Brain Health Awareness Week. Bruyère physicians and researchers will be joining Dr. Antoine Hakim to talk about how memory loss affects our ability to navigate, and what you can do that can help avoid dementia.
Dr. Neil Thomas is a physician and researcher at Bruyère, as well as a member of the Memory and Cognition Group—a collaboration between the Bruyère Research Institute and University of Ottawa Brain and Mind Research Institute.