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English Detective #36, New Hope for Alzheimer’s, Apr.8, 2014
April 08, 2014

The current investigation (Introducing this issue):

Alzheimer’s disease is a terrible tragedy for the people affected by it and their families. It also threatens major economic loss to countries with aging populations. It takes away not only a person’s memory but their very sense of who they are and the people they love; it changes personality and takes away a person’s ability to care for themselves. The worst part of it has been that no one knew any way to even slow its progress very much.

So it is very exciting news that researchers are beginning to find ways to delay, treat, and even possibly reverse Alzheimer’s disease.

Several recent news reports have discussed various promising treatments, including drug and stem cell research. Several reports were either long or difficult reading. So this newsletter will look at a fairly short, easy BBC report on research using electrical deep brain stimulation to reactivate some damaged brain areas and possibly reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s.

Quite a lot of research has also been done on the value of mental stimulation to slow down the brain cell damage that can lead to Alzheimer’s. A number of studies, including the one with the link below, show big benefits for people who grow up speaking more than one language. Bilingualism not only activates many different areas in the brain and makes mental processing more efficient, but it can actually delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

So read one or both of these articles for a hopeful look at future medical progress and one more chance to practice and add to your science and neurology vocabulary. I’m linking again to the last issue’s Nervous System crossword, in case you didn’t have a chance to try it then, and also to our new index to all the Latin and Greek root practice pages on EnglishHints.

In the next issues English Detective will look at what enables people to lead. Then there will be some suggestions for new graduates (or anyone seeking to advance in their field or move on to a new career) on writing a C.V. or resume (with links to interview and presentation skills, and then another look at vocabulary for social needs and social change.

Your First Clue: Vocabulary Emphasized in this Issue

New: Alzheimer’s (see introduction), bilingual, dementia, electrodes, shrink, stimulation.

A few notes about the new vocabulary:

As you probably already know, to be bilingual means to be able to speak two languages fluently (well). Monolingual people can speak only one, and multilingual people speak many languages. (Bi-, mono-, and multi- are among the many prefixes on the List of Prefixes.)

Dementia is a group of mental disorders usually caused by damage to areas of the brain. Most forms of dementia occur after middle age and become more common with increasing age. Dementia usually involves forgetfulness and slower mental processes. Some dementias can also cause personality changes and major limitations in daily life. Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most serious (and common) dementias.

Electrodes are conductors of electricity. Researchers can attach electrodes to (or inside) the skull and use them to carry electrical impulses to stimulate particular areas of the brain.

To shrink means to get smaller. Alzheimer’s can cause shrinkage of brain tissue.

Stimulation means doing something that encourages action or an increase in activity. Reading or puzzles stimulate the mind; electrical impulses stimulate nerves.

Getting the whole story: reading practice:

Click here for the BBC article on deep brain stimulation to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

Here’s the news report on how being bilingual delays Alzheimer’s.

Follow the Clues (Vocabulary Practice):

Click here for the online neuroscience crossword.

Word Family Investigator

EnglishHints now has a new index page for the Latin and Greek roots most useful for understanding common English words. It links to practice and explanations for over 100 roots, as well as to general-use prefixes and suffixes.

That page (Greek and Latin Root Words) also gives hints on how to find the root within a long word by removing common prefixes and suffixes. (So the root of ‘demobilize’ is ‘mobile,’ and the root of ‘extractible’ is ‘tract.’)

A note if you get gmail: Have you missed any issues of English Detective? if you find English Detective in your Promotions box, you can move it to your Primary box (if you want) by clicking on it and dragging it there, then clicking Yes when asked if you want to always get it in the Primary box.

Coming in the next issue: Looking at Leadership.

In case you missed these: Earlier issues of English Detective have articles on a number of topics, plus practice with all 570 words from the Academic Word List. You can check them out with the link to the back issues page below (or find what words were practiced each issue here.

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