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Deciphering SNAP: The other kind of dementia

September 12, 2016
by Pamela Tabar, Editor-in-Chief
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One of the classic hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease is the sticky gobs of brain plaques called amyloids that clog up the brain’s neuropathways.  But one type of cognitive degeneration doesn’t seem to have any relation to amyloid buildup:  Suspected non-Alzheimer pathophysiology (SNAP).

SNAP is a biomarker associated with progressive dementia, yet it isn’t the same as the biomarkers for Alzheimer’s or other amyloid-related dementias. Researchers are trying to discover more about how SNAP develops in order to improve diagnosis methods and treatment plans that are specific to non-amyloid dementias.

Two recent studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association both indicate that having SNAP doesn’t usually lead to Alzheimer’s, and vice-versa. A person with SNAP doesn’t seem to have any higher risk of Alzheimer’s than a person with no cognitive decline at all, the studies showed.

“There’s a disconnect between those with SNAP and those on an Alzheimer’s trajectory,” said Brian Gordon, PhD, an author of the Knight Alzheimer Disease Research Center study, in a MedPage Today article. “Something else is going on with the neurodegeneration seen in SNAP.”

About one-quarter of those with cognitive decline exhibit neurodegeneration without amyloid buildup. The term SNAP was created in 2012 to represent this category of people within the National Institute on Aging-Alzheimer Association criteria for defining Alzheimer’s Disease and its stages.

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