Alzheimer’s doesn’t have to be your brain’s destiny, says neuroscientist and author of “Still Alice,” Lisa Genova. She shares the latest science investigating the disease — and some promising research on what each of us can do to build an Alzheimer’s-resistant brain.
What can you do about Alzheimer’s? “Part of the fear around Alzheimer’s stems from the fact that there’s nothing we can do about it,” says neuroscientist and author of Still Alice Lisa Genova. “Alzheimer’s appears to be our brain’s destiny, but maybe it doesn’t have to be.” Most scientists believe the disease is caused by a buildup of amyloid plaque in the brain. When the buildup reaches a tipping point, synapses are destroyed — and memory, language and cognition start to degrade. While genes do play a role, habits like adequate sleep, aerobic exercise and a healthy diet can help delay or prevent disease onset. However, even if the brain does reach the tipping point, it’s not necessarily too late. “We can be resilient to the presence of Alzheimer’s pathology through the recruitment of yet-undamaged pathways,” Genova says. “We create these pathways, this cognitive reserve, by learning new things.” And even if Alzheimer’s does come, Genova shares three lessons. One, diagnosis doesn’t mean you’re dying tomorrow; keep living. Two, you won’t lose your emotional memory of what joy and love feel like. And three, you are more than what you can remember.
Why you should listen?
Lisa Genova wields her ability to tell a story and her knowledge of the human brain to talk about medical conditions like Alzheimer’s in warmly human terms. Her writing, often focusing on those who are misunderstood, explores the lives of people living with neurological diseases and disorders. A bestselling author, her work has been transformed into an Oscar-winning film, Still Alice, but the real triumph is Genova’s ability to help us empathize with a person’s journey we otherwise couldn’t even begin to understand.
Her newest book, Inside the O’Briens, is about Huntington’s disease.
What others say?
“Genova, who has left behind her science career to write full time, once thought she would do research that might lead to treatments or cures for brain diseases. Instead, her novels are opening eyes.” — USA Today