Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the main form of dementia in the elderly and affects greater than 47 million people worldwide. Care for AD patients poses very significant personal and economic demands on individuals and society, and the situation is expected to get even more dramatic in the coming decades unless effective treatments are found to halt the progression of the disease. Although AD is most commonly regarded as a disease of the memory, the entire brain is eventually affected by neuronal dysfunction or neurodegeneration, which brings about a host of other behavioral disturbances. AD patients often present with apathy, depression, eating and sleeping disorders, aggressive behavior, and other non-cognitive symptoms, which deeply affect not only the patient but also the caregiver's health. These symptoms are usually associated with AD pathology but are often neglected as part of disease progression due to the early and profound impact of disease on memory centers such as the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex. Yet, a collection of findings offers biochemical insight into mechanisms underlying non-cognitive symptoms in AD, and indicate that, at the molecular level, such symptoms share common mechanisms. Here, we review evidence indicating mechanistic links between memory loss and non-cognitive symptoms of AD. We highlight the central role of the pro-inflammatory activity of microglia in behavioral alterations in AD patients and in experimental models of the disease. We suggest that a deeper understanding of non-cognitive symptoms of AD may illuminate a new beginning in AD research, offering a fresh approach to elucidate mechanisms involved in disease progression and potentially unveiling yet unexplored therapeutic targets.
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