Identified Observations/ Effects of Alzheimer’s Disease

Patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease are observed to have one or more of the following:

  • Accumulation of extracellular amyloid β plaques and neurofibrillary tangles

  • Cell membrane defects

  • Overall shrinkage of the brain tissue

  • Widening of sulcus (groove in the brain)

  • Shrinkage of gyrus (folds of the brain’s outer layer)

  • Enlargement of ventricles (chambers within the brain that consist of cerebrospinal fluid)

  • Degeneration of cells in the hippocampus (part of the brain responsible for memory) during the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

  • Loss of neurons and synapses in the cerebral cortex (the outer layer of the brain) and certain subcortical regions. This selective loss is greatly dependent on the severity of the dementia

Effects of Alzheimer’s Disease

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease

The changes in the brain mentioned above may begin years before any symptoms appear. This period is known as preclinical Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

AD can be categorised into three stages: mild, moderate and severe AD. Below shows the symptoms present at each stage of AD once symptoms start to appear. Please note that this should only be used as a general guide. You are advised to seek medical advice or take the tests for Alzheimer’s Disease for an affirmative diagnosis of AD.

Mild AD (early stage):

  • Difficulty recalling newly learned information, including recent events, places and names
  • Problems coming up with the right words to express thoughts
  • Get confused about times and places
  • Repeat the same words or questions over and over
  • Have difficulty organising & problem-solving
  • Take a longer time to perform routine tasks
  • Difficulty completing complicated tasks, such as managing money and paying bills
  • Lose or misplace a valuable object

Moderate AD (middle stage):

  • Forget own personal life history, including own address, telephone number, or college from which they graduated
  • Confuse about where they are and what day it is
  • A high risk of wandering or becoming lost
  • Experience incontinence, i.e. a loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Experience changes in sleep patterns, such as sleeping during the day and becoming restless at night
  • Become moody or withdrawn, especially in social situations
  • Experience personal and behavioral changes, such as becoming suspicious of those around them, even accusing others of theft or infidelity; or repetitive and compulsive behaviours (e.g. hand-wringing, tissue shredding)

Severe AD (late stage):

  • Often requires 24-hour assistance with daily activities and personal care
  • Difficulty walking and moving, become chair-bound or bed-bound
  • Increased susceptibility to infections, including pneumonia and skin infections
  • Difficulty communicating through words
  • Difficulty swallowing and eating
  • Lose awareness of their surroundings
  • Lose facial expressions, including the ability to smile

More Information

Alzheimer’s and the Brain
This video provides insight into the structure and changes of brain in Alzheimer’s disease.

Allan Jone – A Map of the Brain
A talk by Allan Jones, a brain scientist, on a map of the brain.

Siddarthan Chandran – Can the Damaged Brain Repair itself? TED Talk
Siddharthan Chandran, a regenerative neurologist, proposed a possible solution to brain degenerative diseases, through the use of stem cell technology to allow self-repair of damaged brain.