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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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Behavioral Variant Frontotemporal Dementia (bvFTD)

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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Corticobasal Syndrome (CBS)

Like Parkinson’s disease, slowing of movements, stiffness, tremors, falls and shuffling of the feet are seen. Problems with movements occur on one side of the body, such as stiffness, shaking or loss of control. 

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Progressive Supranuclear Palsy Syndrome (PSPS)

A Parkinson’s-plus syndrome, meaning that it is a disease that shares some of the symptoms of Parkinson's disease such as slowing of movements, stiffness, tremors, falls and shuffling of the feet.

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Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB)

Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB) affects many areas of the nervous system. DLB is categorized by cognitive, psychiatric/behavioral and physical symptoms a person experiences
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Posterior Cortical Atrophy (PCA)

Posterior Cortical Atrophy (PCA) is a neurodegenerative syndrome that affects the back parts of the brain, which are primarily responsible for processing visual information.
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Related Conditions

Vascular dementia, rapidly progressing dementias, Parkinson Disease Dementia, and ALS are all conditions that can overlap with a dementia.

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SuperAging

At Northwestern, we coined "SuperAging" as a research term. Studying SuperAgers is important to understand what is going right with aging and help us better understand how to treat dementia, as well.

SuperAgers are defined as individuals who are 80 years of age and older and have cognitive ability at least as good as people in their 50s or 60s. A variety of factors contribute to SuperAging including cognition, personality traits, psychosocial factors, genetic factors, and brain structure.  

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