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Advances in dementia research
  1. Simon Lovestone

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This book is a collection of presentations from a symposium “Ageing and Dementia” held at the end of 1999 in Graz. As always with such collections, the book is as good as the presentations were and some of these are excellent and useful, others are worth reading. One or two could just have provided an opportunity to go and have a look around Graz. What the book is not is a systematic review of advances in dementia research and probably books are not good places to turn to for such reviews, as this material is generally best accessed directly from the journals themselves. The book starts well enough with an interesting series of papers on the relation between vascular damage to the brain and dementia. Some of the articles are non-systematic and short reviews, others are more thoughtful discussions of an interesting but difficult area of research, and others are straightforward data presentations. I was left with more questions than answers, which is probably healthy. The papers in the book then go on to discuss other important issues in dementia research including neuroinflammation, apoptosis, mytochondrial dysfunction, and genetics. Some of the most important advances came just a little bit after this book was published. The discussion of transgenic models of Alzheimer's disease for example includes no discussion of transgenic models of the frontal lobe dementias even though that is clearly related and the various papers on immunological approaches do not include any of the amyloid vaccine data.

A more general question arises, to my mind, however, reading this book, as to quite who else is likely to read it. If read by somebody coming new to the dementia field they would have a very unbalanced picture of the field and this book could not be recommended to novices to dementia research. On the other hand, those familiar with dementia research are unlikely to treat this book as other than a collection of primary papers and if browsing, then browsing time might well be better spent with JNNP, for example. The participants of the meeting are almost certainly going to flick through the book if only to recall what they said. Other readers of course will include reviewers. However, and this is a very personal review, I am not a huge fan of collection of papers from meetings. I suspect they largely go unread and I cannot really recommend this book to anybody. Interestingly the final six or so articles are all on a proprietary compound which is being developed for treating Alzheimer's disease. According to one article, this compound is widely used to relieve symptoms in various neurological disorders, which was certainly news to me. A previous meeting held in 1997 also resulted in a book very similar to this one and is advertised in the back. A review of the 1997 meeting book, published in Acta Psychiatria Scandinavica and used as a promotional blurb mentions that “The book will be of interest to those following the development of neurotrophic factors for treatment of dementia who need an extensive introduction to the preclinical studies” of this proprietary compound. Things haven't changed much.

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