The dementia that can be cured.

There are more than 200 subtypes of dementia. And researchers have found that in one, confusion and memory loss can be treated. But the trick is to spot it…

When John Abraham began to lose his mind in late 2019, his family immediately feared the worst. Abraham had enjoyed robust health throughout retirement, but now at 80 he suddenly found himself struggling to finish sentences.

“I would be talking to people, and all of a sudden the final word wouldn’t come to mind,” he remembers. “I assumed this was simply a feature of ageing, and I was finding ways of getting around it.”

 

But within weeks, further erratic behaviours started to develop. Abraham’s family recall him often falling asleep mid-conversation, he would sometimes shout out bizarre comments in public, and during the night he would wake up every 15 minutes, sometimes hallucinating.

 

To his son Steve, the diagnosis seemed inevitable, one which all families dread. “I was convinced my dad had dementia,” he says. “What I couldn’t believe was the speed at which it was all happening. It was like dementia on steroids.”

 

Dementia is not just one disease – it has more than 200 different subtypes. Over the past decade neurologists have become increasingly interested in one particular subtype, known as autoimmune dementia. In this condition, the symptoms of memory loss and confusion are the result of brain inflammation caused by rogue antibodies – known as autoantibodies – binding to the neuronal tissue, rather than an underlying neurodegenerative disease. Crucially this means that unlike almost all other forms of dementia, in some cases it can be cured, andspecialist neurologists have become increasingly adept at both spotting and treating it.

 

At the John Radcliffe hospital, University of Oxford, neurologist Sarosh Irani is one of the world’s leading experts in treating neurological conditions caused by a malfunctioning immune system. When Abraham was admitted under his care in early January 2020 following a seizure, Irani soon realised that the source of his problems was an autoantibody which targeted a protein in the brain named LGI1. " 

 

Read the rest of the article here:  https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/oct/25/the-dementia-that-can-be-cured