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Alzheimer's Disease and Communication

  • By: Geri R. Hall
  • In: Encyclopedia of Family Health
  • Edited by: Martha Craft-Rosenberg & Shelley-Rae Pehler
  • Subject:Family Health, Family Policy, Family Law

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder affecting over 5 million Americans according to statistics provided by the Alzheimer's Association for the year 2009. Characterized by memory loss, personality changes, behavioral symptoms, and functional decline, AD is a deficit in communication at all levels ranging from cellular to interpersonal communications. A simplified discussion of the concepts follows.

Cellular Communication

A key concept in AD, cellular communication occurs when stimulated neurons produce an electrical charge that travels across synapses by producing neurotransmitters. Each neuron has up to 15,000 synapses. In AD, researchers see the presence of neurofibrillary tangles, which are abnormal collections of tau protein found within neurons. Tau normally binds to microtubules, which support the neuron. In AD, tau disengages and forms large clumps. This causes ...

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