UF-led study identifies top research priorities for dementia with Lewy bodies

By Michelle Koidin Jaffee

(From Left) Doctors Melissa Armstrong and Glenn Smith
Drs. Melissa Armstrong and Glenn E. Smith

Dementia with Lewy bodies is the second most common form of degenerative dementia in seniors, after Alzheimer’s disease. Despite this, the areas of research considered most pressing by those living with the disease and their caregivers are not well known or understood, according to a new paper in the journal PLOS ONE.

Now, researchers from University of Florida Health, the University of Maryland’s Erickson School of Aging Studies and the Lewy Body Dementia Association have teamed up to identify the most urgent focus areas, such as new treatments and ways to improve quality of life.

The new paper, led by Melissa Armstrong, M.D., an associate professor of neurology at UF, and Glenn Smith, Ph.D., chair of UF’s department of clinical and health psychology, examined survey results from 20 individuals with dementia with Lewy bodies, or DLB, as well as 25 caregivers. The study was performed with people receiving care at the Mangurian Clinical-Research Headquarters for Lewy Body Dementia at the Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases at UF Health.

Dementia with Lewy bodies differs from other dementias such as Alzheimer’s in many ways, including the type of memory and thinking problems, presence of movement symptoms such as tremor, stiffness and slowness, and issues like hallucinations and paranoia.

“Thus, the priorities of people living with dementia with Lewy bodies may be different from the priorities of people with other dementias,” Armstrong said.

Among the research needs highlighted in the new study were: awareness, determining the cause of DLB, improving diagnosis and investigating disease stages, as well as therapies to prevent, cure or slow progression and methods to improve daily function and quality of life.

The findings support research priorities previously identified in two National Institutes of Health summits on dementia research and dementia care, the researchers reported.

“The next step will be to see if opinions are similar when asking a broader group of individuals living with dementia with Lewy bodies,” Armstrong said, adding that they plan to partner with the Lewy Body Dementia Association to survey a wider group of people.

Read the paper in PLOS ONE.