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Neurodegenerative diseases are a group of chronic diseases characterized by the loss of function and eventual death of neurons within the nervous system (neurodegeneration). No cures currently exist for neurodegenerative diseases, with each disease resulting in a gradual decline in specific mental and physical abilities, such as memory, speech, and movement, based on the regions of the nervous system in which neurons are lost.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative disease and the leading cause of dementia worldwide, affecting an estimated 10 percent of individuals aged 65 or older. Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by the widespread loss of neurons within the cerebral cortex of the brain resulting in progressive memory loss and a decline in cognitive function over time.
Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease and affects approximately 1-2 percent of individuals over the age of 60. Parkinson’s disease is characterized by the selective loss of neurons that release dopamine in a specific brain region known as the substantia nigra. The loss of these neurons results in the distinct motor (movement) symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, including tremor, rigidity, loss of balance, and difficulty walking.
Frontotemporal dementia refers to a group of conditions impacting the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, including regions involved in personality, behaviour, and language. Frontotemporal dementia is the second most common cause of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease and symptoms vary significantly based on the specific underlying condition.
Huntington’s disease is a rare inherited neurodegenerative disease that is caused by a mutation in the huntingtin gene. This mutation leads to the loss of neurons within various brain regions, including the striatum early on. Huntington’s disease symptoms usually emerge between 30 and 50 years of age and include a variety of motor, cognitive, and behavioural symptoms, including jerky, random, and uncontrollable movements, memory loss, anxiety, and aggression.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or motor neuron disease) is a rapidly progressing neurodegenerative disease characterized by the loss of neurons controlling the muscles of the body (motor neurons). Due to the loss of motor neurons, individuals affected by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis experience progressive muscle weakness and eventual paralysis.