LATE: Harvard Medical School Explains a Common Cause of Dementia You’ve Never Heard Of

According to Harvard Medical School, limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy (LATE) is a recently discovered form of dementia that affects older adults. It is often misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s or frontotemporal dementia because of similar symptoms. LATE is caused by abnormal deposits of TAR DNA binding protein 43 (TDP-43). These deposits are found in the brain, particularly the hippocampus and amygdala – two structures responsible for memory, emotion, and behavior.

The cause of LATE remains unknown, according to researchers and others at Harvard Medical School. However, evidence suggests that it may be linked to aging, genetic factors, and environmental triggers. These external or environmental issues include head trauma or viral infections. Symptoms vary depending on the area of the brain affected but typically include:

  • Memory loss
  • Impaired judgment
  • Difficulty finding words
  • Difficulty with complex tasks

As the disease progresses, people may experience changes in personality, behavior, and visual disturbances such as hallucinations.

There is no cure or treatment specifically for LATE. However, some medications can help manage symptoms such as depression or anxiety. Additionally, lifestyle interventions such as cognitive stimulation therapy can help people maintain their cognitive abilities and slow down the progression of the disease. Cognitive stimulation therapy involves engaging in activities that stimulate mental functions, such as reading books, playing games, doing puzzles, and using technology to stay connected with friends and family.

The effects of LATE can be devastating for both patients and their families. With that said, early diagnosis is key to getting proper care and support to manage symptoms effectively. If you have concerns about your memory or someone else’s memory problems, it is important to speak with a doctor about possible causes so that any necessary treatments can be prescribed early on to prevent further cognitive decline.

Harvard Medical School clarifies that more research needs to be done into this form of dementia. It is hoped that further research will ensure that those affected by LATE receive better support and understanding from healthcare professionals across different countries around the world.

How LATE Damages the Brain

In LATE, a protein technically known as TDP-43 (which stands for transactive response DNA binding protein of 43-kDa) accumulates in brain cells. Once it accumulates, it injures and ultimately destroys those brain cells.

LATE generally damages many of the same areas affected by Alzheimer’s disease. These regions include:

  • Amygdala, involved in emotional regulation
  • Hippocampus, involved in learning and memory
  • Temporal lobe, involved in words and their meanings
  • Portions of the frontal lobes, involved with keeping the information in mind and manipulating it

How Common Is LATE Among Seniors?

According to Harvard Medical School, LATE is estimated to cause about 15 percent to 20 percent of all dementias. It is believed that many people with dementia also have LATE pathology and one or more other pathologies in their brains. For example, an individual may have the plaques and tangles of Alzheimer’s pathology in addition to LATE pathology. At the same time, they may also have ministrokes or vascular pathology. It turns out that about 40 percent of people with dementia have at least some LATE pathology in their brain, according to researchers at Harvard Medical School. All of this means that LATE is very common.

Can LATE be Diagnosed?

LATE can only be diagnosed with certainty at the time of an autopsy. However, it is possible to get a hint that LATE might be present when an older individual shows memory loss and word-finding problems common in Alzheimer’s disease. Still, special tests used to confirm the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s come up negative.

Can the Risks of LATE Be Reduced for Seniors?

As mentioned previously, limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy, or LATE, is a type of dementia that affects seniors. It is characterized by gradually worsening memory, cognitive decline, and other symptoms, such as changes in behavior, depression, and difficulty with communication. The cause of LATE is not yet fully understood, and there is no cure. However, there are ways to reduce the risk of developing this condition.

One way to reduce the risk of LATE is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Eating a balanced diet and engaging in regular physical activity can help maintain good mental health, which may reduce the chances of developing dementia or any other neurological disorder. In addition, maintaining social connections can help support brain health by providing stimulation and helping to keep the mind active.

Other suggestions to reduce the risk of LATE include getting enough sleep, managing stress levels effectively, avoiding substance abuse (including smoking), engaging in meaningful activities, such as reading or learning a new skill, staying socially active with family and friends, taking mental health breaks when needed during periods of extended stress or strain, and participating in activities that involve problem-solving or critical thinking skills. Additionally, regular checkups with a physician may be beneficial in monitoring for signs of dementia.

Finally, some research suggests that certain medications may help reduce the risk for LATE, including cholesterol-lowering drugs statins and angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs). Several studies have shown that statins and ARBs may help prevent cognitive decline by reducing inflammation in the brain associated with aging. However, more research still needs to be done before any definitive conclusions can be drawn.

In conclusion, although researchers are still working towards understanding the cause of Limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy or LATE, there are measures seniors can take to reduce their risk of developing this condition. These include:

  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise
  • Engaging in meaningful activities
  • Managing stress levels
  • Avoiding substance abuse
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Taking mental health breaks when needed
  • Participating in activities involving problem-solving or critical-thinking skills
  • Participating in social activities with family and friends
  • Undergoing regular checkups with a physician
  • Possibly take medications such as statins or ARBs if a doctor recommends them

Reducing the risk for LATE can help seniors maintain their mental faculties longer.