Cynthia Carlsson, MD, MS, was a recent guest on the podcast Compassion Chats, an online monthly program about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia caregiving. Carlsson described what inspired her to devote her career to Alzheimer’s disease research, including her early experiences with a grandmother who lived with dementia. The interview also discussed progress being made in the field, the importance of research participants, and how to get involved.
Recent scientific advances have made it clear that when a person experiences symptoms, it’s likely the person’s brain was impacted many years earlier, and researchers can now identify the early signs of possible Alzheimer’s disease much earlier than before, she said. When Alzheimer’s disease was first diagnosed in 1906, scientists could only identify the disease through autopsy, a fact that didn’t change until more than a century later. Today, scientists can identify brain changes through signs of disease in a person, even earlier than that person may notice symptoms themselves, she said.
“Since then, there’s been an explosion in research where we can see those changes in someone, using specialized research scans, PET scans, spinal fluid tests, now even blood tests, to see what are the very earliest brain changes, ” she said. “So we’re paying attention to what’s happening to the person, but what we really want to see, as early as possible, is what are those subtle brain changes, way before someone gets memory problems.”
Watch a recording of the episode now: