The symptoms of dementia are caused by the death of nerve cells in the brain, different cell populations being affected in the various disease types. In Norway there are currently around 65,000 cases of dementia, with 10-12,000 new cases occurring each year. The elderly are most commonly afflicted, the average age of Alzheimer patients being around 75 years, and progression of the disease can neither be stopped nor reversed. Certain drugs can slow progression temporarily in some patients.
Treatment (such as it is at present) is most effective when administered in the early stages of disease. In addition, certain metabolic diseases can be mistaken for dementia. Better and earlier diagnosis are therefore important factors that can give improved treatment. Understanding the mechanisms that lead to the development of dementia will be fundamental to developing new therapies that stop the process before it has time to damage the brain. One promising approach is to identify specific genes that predispose towards particular forms of dementia. The identification of such mechanisms is an important goal of TrønderBrain.