Sunday, April 1, 2012

Early history of dementia

The disease that can produce dementia are as old as mankind. Around the year 2000 BC ancient Egyptians, even though they held that the heart and diaphragm were the seats of mental life, were aware that age could be accompanied by a major memory disorder.

The word ‘dementia’ has been around for quite some time and comes from the Latin demens which literally means ‘without mind’.

Many Greco Roman authors including Plato and then Horatius seem to have thought that old age per se was often synonymous with dementia.

Cicero, the Roman philosopher of the second century BC, may be the first writer of the time to argue that dementia was not an inevitable consequence of old age and was preventable via ‘intellectual activity which gives buoyancy to the mind’, concept furthered by Galen in the second century AD.

Solon in 6th century the father of modern legal thinking, wrote that judgment can be impaired by ‘physical pain, violence, drugs , old age or the persuasion of a woman’.

By the eighteenth century it was becoming medically recognized as ‘abolition of the reasoning faculty’, according to a French scientific encyclopedia of 1765.

The syndrome of senile dementia first came to light in the medical literature in Germany in the mid 1800s. In 1892, microscopic senile plaques, now called amyloid plaques, were first described and in 1907, were correlated with dementia in older adults.
Early history of dementia
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