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Tuesday, 12 March, 2002, 07:46 GMT
New help for dementia sufferers
Alzheimer's patients
Thousands in Scotland suffer from the disease
An interactive computer system is being developed to help people suffering from Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.

The technique aims to stimulate sufferers' memories and help them talk to their carers.

Alzheimer's is a progressive, degenerative disease, which attacks the brain and results in impaired memory, thinking and behaviour.

Drugs
The computer system would augment available drugs
Most sufferers need to go into residential care homes, but thousands are still looked after by their families.

However, carers often find it difficult to communicate with sufferers.

Now researchers in Dundee and St Andrews have developed a computer system which aims to bridge that gap.

It uses touch-screen technology, video and sound clips to prompt long-term memories which are lying dormant in sufferers' minds.

The system will not be ready for several years, but it is receiving cash from the state's main funding body for technical research.

More than 58,000 people in Scotland suffer from dementia.

Drug treatments

It is most common in older people but can affect people in their 40s, 50s or even younger.

Sufferers often experience disturbances in their daily rhythm, which affects body functions such as sleep cycles, temperature, alertness and hormone production.

Last year research by Alzheimer Scotland-Action on Dementia, suggested that the prospect of Alzheimer's sufferers receiving key drug treatments was dependent on where they live.

The research said that people living in health board areas such as Ayrshire and Arran and Lothian were between five and 12 times more likely to receive treatment than those in areas with the worst provision - Grampian, Tayside, Highland and Orkney.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Scotland's David Henderson reports
"The designers stress this computer programme will not provide a cure for dementia"
See also:

29 May 01 | Health
Alzheimer's drugs row
21 Dec 00 | Scotland
Alzheimer's test offers hope
21 Sep 00 | Health
14bn bill for Alzheimer's
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