On her campaign website, Hillary Clinton commits to ‘’prevent, effectively treat, and make a cure possible for Alzheimer’s disease by 2025.’’ Additionally, she promises to invest 2$ billion per year in research. While some Alzheimer’s advocacy organizations, such as UsAgainstAlzheimer’s, have supported her plan, Hillary’s promise is probably the most unrealistic electoral promise made in US history.
Given the state of the neuroscientific research, ‘’curing’’ Alzheimer’s is as likely to occur within 9 years as eliminating hunger, regenerating limbs with stem cells, or pacifying the Middle East. In other words, there is absolutely no chance that Hillary will fulfill her promise to eliminate Alzheimer’s during her mandate, if she is elected. Here’s why.
No psychological disorder has ever had an established biological marker
Psychiatric disorders are diagnosed based on behavior, not with brain imaging or any other physical test. While some brain differences between clinical and control groups can be used in support, no psychiatric disorder can be identified with brain scans. Psychiatrists are unable to diagnose either ADHD, autism, or even schizophrenia with brain imaging. Psychological disorders are behavioral categories, not biological ones. After decades of research, no psychiatric disorder has been proven to be caused by a reliable biomarker. None. Just detecting Alzheimer’s with brain scans would be ambitious given the short time lapse given by Hillary.
Promising a cure would necessitate that we find a reliable cause for Alzheimer’s, which has never been done for any disorder, after decades of brain imaging research. Finding a biomarker would be the next logical step to cure Alzheimer’s, and would already be ambitious by 2025, but Hillary promised to solve this issue, and all subsequent problems within this delay.
Alzheimer’s has no biological marker either
Some promising trails have been investigated. Researchers have found that people with Alzheimer’s have amyloid deposits in the brain. The only problem is that many people have amyloid plaques but no Alzheimer’s symptoms. This is similar to brain imaging in general, and it has led many people to overestimate the significance of neuroimaging findings. In the specific case of Alzheimer’s, brain imaging is used to rule out other causes, if a brain abnormality is found.
Two popular competing hypotheses, the Tau hypothesis and the Amyloid hypothesis, have been thoroughly tested since 1991. Yet, no clear conclusion was reached, despite all our efforts. The research is ongoing to this day, and nothings leads us to believe that a quick breakthrough will soon occur.
To ‘’cure’’ a mental illness is something that has never been done, and we are not sure of ever achieving that, given the complexity of the mind and brain. We have slowed down the progress of certain diseases, we have given medication to minimize ADHD symptoms, we have created anti-psychotics, but we haven’t come close to cure or prevent any form of mental illness. We haven’t even succeeded in finding a biological marker that can reliably prove/disprove the presence of any psychological disorder.
To cure Alzheimer’s, we would have to find a biological marker, understand it enough to prevent or invert it, and make the treatment widely available. We have been busy trying to fulfill the first step for decades, without success. Completely eradicating the disease, and in such short delays, would be nothing short of a miracle in the slow and chaotic process of neuroscience.
Hillary should only promise to invest $2 billion, without any irrationally ambitious end goals. This is pure manipulation of suggestible masses, especially vulnerable people that have a loved one with Alzheimer’s.
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