Person long thought lost to the ravages of dementia

Dementia; It happens unexpectedly: a person long thought lost to the ravages of dementia, unable to recall the events of their lives or even recognize those closest to them, will suddenly wake up and exhibit surprisingly normal behavior, only to pass away shortly thereafter. This phenomenon, which experts refer to as terminal or paradoxical lucidity, has report since antiquity, yet there have been very few scientific studies of it. That may be about to change.

Severe dementia

In an article publish in the August issue of Alzheimer’s & Dementia , an inter disciplinary work group convene by the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute on Aging and led by Michigan Medicine’s George A. Mashour, M.D., Ph.D., outlines what is know and unknown about paradoxical lucidity, considers its potential mechanisms; also details how a thorough scientific analysis could help shed light on the patho physiology of dementia.

They’ve assume that advance dementia is an irreversible neuro degenerative process with irreversible functional limitations, says Mashour, professor in the department of anesthesiology, faculty in the neuroscience graduate program, and director of the Center for Consciousness Science. But if the brain is able to access some sort of functional network configuration during paradoxical lucidity, even in severe dementia, this suggests a reversible component of the disease.

Observable paradoxical lucidity

Mashour admits that studying paradoxical lucidity will be a challenge; so give the fleeting nature of the event. Case studies report episodes lasting from mere seconds to at most several days; so for a small minority of cases. The work group also outlines important ethical implications of this work; hence including the ability of vulnerable patients to participate in research and how the observation of paradoxical lucidity might change the way caregivers interact with people with dementia.

Would research that might identify a systematically observable paradoxical lucidity provide comfort; so for example, by offering loved ones a potential channel for closure, or might it induce worry; so if love ones are left to wonder if a reversible cause of the dementia could have find.

They do not know the answers but these could be important research questions in their own right; so says co-first author Lori Frank, Ph.D., of the RAND Corporation and former Health; also Aging Congressional fellow with the National Institute on Aging.  The workgroup hopes their paper will help raise awareness; so within the scientific community to advance paradoxical lucidity research, and help validate the experiences of a multitude of caregivers. Says Mashour, “Science is now trying to be thoughtful and attentive to something that has long been reported.