Dementia is eliciting a rapidly growing interest among laboratory investigators, as evidenced by numerous recent publications and symposia. The problems are complex, involving the nervous system's highest functions, but progress is being made and is undoubtedly accelerating.
A complete review is not feasible here, and I have therefore chosen to touch on only a few major points in three types of dementia, Creutzfeldt-Jakob, Pick, and Huntington diseases, and to dwell somewhat longer on a fourth type, the most important in terms of the number of people affected.
The recent findings concerning transmissibility of this disorder make it the only one of the four for which we know the general cause. The original breakthrough came in the now well-known study of a remote and primitive people in New Guinea, among whom a subacute dementing disease, Kuru, was common in women and children. In pioneering work, Gajdusek et al1
Terry RD. Dementia: A Brief and Selective Review. Arch Neurol. 1976;33(1):1–4. doi:10.1001/archneur.1976.00500010003001
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