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Alzheimer’s affects millions of
people and destroys cognitive skills and people’s personalities. Alzheimer’s
patients have plaque build-up in brain synapses, which blocks management of
important chemicals affecting our memory and mood.  Chemicals called neurotransmitters, including
serotonin, carry messages that cause the body’s central nervous system to function.
Studies have recently found Serotonin levels linked to human functions
including mood and memory.1
 Clogging of synapses disables the brain’s
regulation of serotonin, which is either a cause or effect of Alzheimer’s.

Recent science suggests knowing
more about serotonin can help create new drug treatments called “SSRI” (selective
serotonin reuptake inhibitors). These drugs are meant to help manage the brain’s
chemical balances including serotonin. Scientists believe it is possible to use
SSRIs to either overcome clogging or flawed neurotransmitter levels but the
danger of interfering with chemical levels in the brain is as real as the
possible benefits.

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The SSRI drug advancement is new and
showing potential in theoretical and experimental stages. One important benefit
of using SSRI drugs is that they may help to reduce the buildup of plaque in
the brain.  This would allow synapses to continue
to talk to each other normally because there would be no clogging. It is also possible
that SSRI drugs would aid in preventing the chemical production of serotonin even
if there is clogging or buildup present in the brain.  Using SSRI drugs to help the synapses
regulate serotonin levels could help fix the terrible personal symptoms of
memory loss and mood swings. The possibilities of SSRI drug treatment are
exciting and bring hope to people and families suffering under this disease.

A major problem in Alzheimer’s
research is that researchers do not yet know whether plaque buildup and
neurotransmitter imbalances are the cause of Alzheimer’s or one of the effects
of the disease. When serotonin is out of balance in the brain then so are other
chemicals, which affect many other body functions. Scientists warn that the
introduction of SSRI drugs to control serotonin may have a variety of unintended
effects on the patient that are not yet known or studied. Another problem with
SSRI treatment is that it is unlikely to help those who are already in advanced
stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s symptoms. Only more discovery about the
actual cause of Alzheimer’s and the ability for drug treatment to specifically
address serotonin levels without other harmful effects will take this treatment
method to the next level.

Alzheimer’s and dementia are sad
diseases because they destroy our loved one’s personality, which defines who
they are. My great-grandfather, Ralph Branson, suffered from Alzheimer’s
symptoms including memory loss and depression.  He suffered anxiety attacks and memory loss
including basic knowledge about his life and close family members.  I believe that the current research on the
cause of Alzheimer’s and the importance of chemical management in the brain is
an exciting step toward understanding how to treat this terrible disease.

1
Smith, Gwenn. “Molecular imaging of serotonin degeneration in cognitive impairment.”
Neurobiology of Disease 105 (2017):
33-41.

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