Did you know that there has never been a diagnosis of Schizophrenia applied to a person born blind due to cortical blindness ? Psychology Today adds “across all past papers, there has not been even one reported case of (any) congenitally blind person who developed schizophrenia.” People who go blind, even at a young age can develop the mental health condition, but there is something in the software or the hardware of the brain that apparently protects it from one condition when struck by another.
Side note: Alzheimer’s isn’t (technically) a mental health condition, it is a physical disease. I do have a little bit of a beef with this separation as it seems to be somehow stigma-related because lots of folks with mental health conditions are made that way by a physical disease. Therefore, I am not sure the distinction is worth the distancing one from the other over. Both need to be cured, and toot sweet!! Additionally, folks with dementia most certainly have an all-you-can-eat-and-more buffet of mental health conditions as symptoms: anxiety (on steroids), depression, paranoia, hallucinations (especially in Lewy Body dementia), and obsessive behavior to name just a few. So, does it really matter that we separate them like that? I guess for funding or something else it may? Anyway…
Big data, something I watch from the industry in super excitement (and with some fear and trepidation) promises to help with similar (not)fun facts for dementia. The military has been in the forefront of building data stockpiles in our troops to provide help for this demographic who get far more dementia than the general population. They do brain scans early and often and this data along with the rest of their medical histories could be number-crunched to find all sorts of “fun facts” like the one above about blindness. What if the problem isn’t plaques and tangles, but plaques and tangles are a byproduct of having the disease? I mean, many people get these trademark “causes” of the disease without ever being symptomatic. (Brainy article here)
This is what makes curing this disease so hard: there are many types and likely many causes. I mean, over half of folks with dementia have other conditions that big data could flag as a cause: nearly 60% have high blood pressure, 26 percent have coronary heart disease, 23 percent have diabetes and 18 percent experience osteoporosis. Ageism, and how you think about aging, can be risk factors or, in my mind, causes too. Social isolation? Yup…a cause or a symptom? We know isolation is terrible on a person…terrible! I mean like smoking unfiltered cigarettes terrible.
- Half of the folks over 85 have the disease.
- Many more woman have the disease. 2/3 are women. Is it because they live longer (in light of bullet point one)?
- “In America, a new case of Alzheimer’s develops every 68 seconds; by 2050, the incidence will increase to every 33 seconds.”
- There are nearly a million diagnosed with the disease living alone.
My point in this number and unfun fact barrage?: Maybe the more we gather data, the more we can actually make correlations that guide research? We all have seen studies that link eating goofy Food A causes Disease A, then another study a year later that says eating Food A actually cures Disease B and probably doesn’t do as much to Disease A as we thought. Sigh…maybe more data than these typically small samples can address these better and hopefully fight off the special interest involvement and provide, at least to researchers, viable data.
There are some studies available on Trial Match through the Alzheimer’s Association and through one of many, many research hospitals that are gathering data. I would hate to think that information siloing /not sharing data is slowing the process, but I am certain it is. The race to the trillion dollar cure surely leads to this kind of crony, or at least less altruistic capitalism, but I just hope that the profit motive is so overwhelming that groups collaborate together to win this race. Am I telling you to trust “Big Data” with your info blindly? Nope. However, if you find research hospitals and organizations like Trial Match that are doing good, help them if you can.
Bottom line?: Can fun facts and/or big data solve our problem? They are trying! I sure hope so. I pray they are… It is a many-choices road they shall trod, and some of the data may/will be a fluke… or worthless. Does it help us to know that folks born blind don’t develop schizophrenia? I mean, that is not a cure…but could such, given the right number of similar oddities, trigger something in the mind of a brilliant scientist or a powerful computer? We shall see.
Good thing we don’t fight against big data these days. 😉 (and rightly so in many cases….)
Update: Mom was fine yesterday…no more falls. Maybe she only falls in Februarys during Leap Years? Wait…Nope…last year she was a mess in that area. There is one you can cross out, Mr. Computer. Sigh… I look forward to some Andy Griffith time with her shortly today. 🙂 It is simpler there.
#EndALZ , with big data if that helps.