Information about the NIH Conference on Cognitive Decline and Alzheimer's

Q: What happened at the recent NIH conference on Preventing Alzheimer's Disease and Cognitive Decline?

A: Great strides have been made in the past 20 years in understanding the nature of cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease and in addressing the magnitude of the problem.

Attendees at the 2010 National Institutes of Health (NIH) conference acknowledged, however, that many challenges remain, particularly in the area of prevention. For example, no adequately designed studies satisfactorily demonstrate that modifying risk factors like diet or physical activity can lower the incidence of dementia.

Diagnostic criteria for cognitive decline and Alzheimer's are not uniformly applied and are not highly reliable. And current evidence is inadequate to support the use of any drugs or supplements to prevent these conditions.

The members of the consensus conference's panel recognized that ongoing research efforts might lead to ways to prevent cognitive decline and Alzheimer's. Studies on the neurobiological basis for age-related cognitive decline and the role of behavioral disorders like depression will supplement existing research in these areas.

More studies, especially large-scale, population-based investigations and randomized clinical trials, are essential for finding new strategies that will maintain cognitive function among at-risk individuals and delay or prevent the onset of cognitive decline and Alzheimer's.

Publication Review By: Peter V. Rabins, M.D., M.P.H.

Published: 14 Mar 2011

Last Modified: 28 Aug 2015