Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Mesulam Center for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease

Learn About Dementia

The term dementia is used to describe the gradual deterioration of intellectual abilities and behavior that eventually interferes with customary daily living activities, such as balancing the checkbook, keeping house, driving the car, involvement in social activities and working. There may also be changes in personality and emotions. Contrary to popular belief, dementia is not a normal outcome of aging, but is caused by diseases that affect the brain. Dementia influences all aspects of mind and behavior, including memory, judgment, language, concentration, visual perception, temperament and social interactions. Although dementia symptoms are eventually obvious to everyone, special evaluations are necessary in the early stages to demonstrate the abnormalities.

Dementia is not a single disease, but a set of symptoms and signs related to multiple diseases or brain injuries. Learn more about the different diseases and conditions associated with dementia, as well as symptoms, treatments, support and resources via the links below.

Alzheimer’s Disease Dementia

In this form of brain degeneration, abnormal particles called neurofibrillary tangles and neuritic plaques form in the brain and destroy healthy neurons (brain cells).

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Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA)

This form of cognitive impairment is caused by degeneration in the parts of the brain that are responsible for speech and language.

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Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD)

This type of dementia is characterized by changes in personality, ability to concentrate, social skills, motivation and reasoning, often at a very early age.

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Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

In this condition, there is a decline in cognitive abilities such as language and reasoning, but not to the extent that it’s obvious in daily activities.

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