I shared a platform with Baroness Susan Greenfield this week at an event for Munich Re. Susan is also Professor of Pharmacology at Oxford University and a leading authority on neurophysiology.
We talked about new approaches to treatment of Alzheimers disease. The key will be to find surrogate markers which indicate early progression before symptoms appear of memory loss. This will mean far shorter clinical trials. We will be able to see rapidly if drugs work or not, by observing if further losses of brain cells have occurred and if so at what speed, regardless of whether there are any noticeable effects on mental performance.
Susan is confident that we will find reliable surrogate markers and also some interesting new therapies which will slow down or stop the deaths of brain cells. While such treatments will not reverse previous damage, surrogate markers will allow very early intervention.
Susan also showed interesting studies on the impact of brain stimulation. The brain remodels itself every day, with new neuronal connections made as a result of experience. There is strong evidence from many studies that mental effort of all kinds is linked to formation of new neuronal connections, and the more of these we have, the greater our so-called cognitive reserve, or capacity to withstand loss of brain cells.