Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment
Psychotic symptoms emerging in the context of neurodegeneration as a consequence of Alzheimer's disease was recognized and documented by Alois Alzheimer himself in his description of the first reported case of the disease. Over a quarter of a century ago, in the context of attempting to develop prognostic markers of disease progression, psychosis was identified as an independent predictor of a more-rapid cognitive decline. This finding has been subsequently well replicated, rendering psychotic symptoms an important area of exploration in clinical history taking - above and beyond treatment necessity - as their presence has prognostic significance. Further, there is now a rapidly accreting body of research that suggests that psychosis in Alzheimer's disease (AD+P) is a heritable disease subtype that enjoys neuropathological specificity and localization. There is now hope that the elucidation of the neurobiology of the syndrome will pave the way to translational research eventuating in new treatments. To date, however, the primary treatments employed in alleviating the suffering caused by AD+P are the atypical antipsychotics. These agents are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of schizophrenia, but they have only marginal efficacy in treating AD+P and are associated with troubling levels of morbidity and mortality. For clinical approaches to AD+P to be optimized, this syndrome must be disentangled from other primary psychotic disorders, and recent scientific advances must be translated into disease-specific therapeutic interventions. Here we provide a review of atypical antipsychotic efficacy in AD+P, followed by an overview of critical neurobiological observations that point towards a frontal, tau-mediated model of disease, and we suggest a new preclinical animal model for future translational research.
School of Medicine