Ageing with grace: Participants in David Snowdon's long-term study of nuns, exploring the relationship between personality and dementia
When I started training in psychiatry in the late 1980s my plan was to specialise in child and adolescent disorders. Instead, I was drawn into a research project examining mental illness in older people living at home. That in turn drew me into a peculiarly British speciality, the psychiatry of old age. (As far as I am aware, only the British Isles, Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands have developed this as a separate discipline within psychiatry.)
In the 1980s our textbooks still referred to senile and pre-senile dementia as though some conceptually important difference existed between dementia occurring before and after 65. In the intervening two decades the public relations machine which supports medicine, pharmaceutical research and voluntary organisations (like the Alzheimer's Society) has helped to relaunch and publicise a newly-packaged bundle of concepts. Rebranding senile dementia as something largely equivalent to Alzheimer's disease was one of the most important of these. Calling it a disease tapped into our fascination with all things medical and raised the public discussion to a new level of sophistication.
The successful relaunch of dementia as Alzheimer's disease was based on several simplifications. One was the "war" declared by the pharmaceutical industry (and related researchers) on Alzheimer's disease which focused on eliminating the plaques and tangles which accumulate in the brains of those people who eventually suffer the clinical entity known as Alzheimer's.
This generation of medicines is in a trial phase and none is even close to reaching the market. Some have been ineffective, some produced unacceptable side effects and some were quite simply disastrous. A vaccine which recruited the body's own immune system to attack and eliminate amyloid plaques was trialled about ten years ago; it caused death and disability in a number of trial participants, mostly in France, where some powerful families had used their influence to get their relatives into the trial. This particular line of research has more or less dried up.
- Debunking the EU Referendum Myths
- Britain's Opportunity Is Europe's Warning
- Controlling Immigration Is Good For Democracy
- The Pied Piper of Islington
- The West Cannot Afford To Ditch Nato
- End Of History — Or Clash Of Civilisations?
- We Can Defeat Islamist Terror — But Not On Our Own
- Without the Emperor, What is Left of Old Japan?
- Now Or Never
- Who Will Heal This Divided Country?
- What Made The West Great Is What Will Save Us
- Shock And Awe: Tales Of A Washington Insider
- We Shouldn't Let Old Men Rot Away In Jail
- Arnold Wesker’s Bid To Build A New Jerusalem
- Our EU Deal Gives Us The Best Of Both Worlds
- Brexit Would Save Us And Set Europe An Example
- Are Both Sides Playing By The Referendum Rules?
- Should We Stay Or Should We Go?
- Ignore Project Fear: Brexit Won't Ruin Us
- Uncontrolled Immigration Means Finis Britanniae