MedUni Vienna: Research into ageing: more diseases are responsible for dementia than previously thought

A recent study by the Clinical Institute of Neurology at the MedUni Vienna has shown that neurodegenerative diseases other than Alzheimer's disease are more common among older people than previously thought. Researchers believe that more personalised treatment may offer considerable opportunities to address this.

The Vienna Trans-Danube Aging (VITA) study has just been published in the September edition of the highly respected journal "Acta Neuropathologica" and has been created by researchers at the Medical University of Vienna, the SMZ-Ost Donauspital and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Gerontology. The study’s primary author, Gabor G. Kovacs from the Clinical Institute of Neurology, sums up the key findings of the study as follows: “The VITA study shows that, in addition to the classic Alzheimer’s-associated changes in the ageing brain, there are other neurodegenerative conditions that are characterised by protein deposits in the brain."

VITA study as the starting point for more personalised treatment concepts for patients with dementia
The scientists also discovered that combinations of these “proteinopathies” with each other and with diseases of the blood vessels are more common than previously assumed. According to Dr. Kovacs, some of these pathological changes can lead to dementia progressing more quickly. However there also appear to be variations that are less “harmful” and which therefore progress less quickly.

Says Kovacs: “Further studies are therefore required in which patients will be monitored in order to determine which of the combinations are associated with more favourable or more deleterious prognoses for the patients.” The authors also outline new conditions that are associated with dementia in the ageing brain. Kovacs believes that the factors identified in this context represent the starting point from which patients with dementia will in future be able to be offered more personalised and therefore more effective treatment.

Pan-European long-term study led by the MedUni Vienna
As part of the long-term VITA study which has been ongoing since 2000, a group of residents of Vienna’s districts 21 and 22 who were born between May 1925 and June 1926 was investigated. Regular medical examinations were performed at Vienna’s SMZ-Ost Donauspital. A total of 233 people who died at the Donauspital also underwent general pathological and specifically neuropathological examinations.

The VITA study is an important part of the ongoing EU project DEVELAGE. Under the supervision of the Institute of Neurology at the MedUni Vienna, eight partner centres from six European countries (Austria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain) are collaborating on the DEVELAGE project ( The VITA study was initiated by a research group established by the MedUni Vienna and the Donauspital and led by Peter Fischer, Director of the Psychiatry Department at Vienna's SMZ-Ost Donauspital.

World Congress of Neurology in Vienna from 21st to 26th September 2013
At the end of September (21 to 26 September 2013), the international research elite will be converging on Vienna for the 21st World Congress of Neurology. The world’s largest specialist conference on the subject of neurology will this year be inspired by the motto of “Neurology in the age of globalisation”, and is being organised jointly by the WFN (World Federation of Neurology) and the ÖGN (Austrian Neurology Society) with the collaboration of the EFNS (European Federation of Neurological Societies). President of the congress is Eduard Auff, Head of the University Department of Neurology at the MedUni Vienna. More information on the World Congress of Neurology can be found at:

Kovacs GG, Milenkovic I, Wöhrer A, Höftberger R, Gelpi E, Haberler C, Hönigschnabl S, Reiner-Concin A, Heinzl H, Jungwirth S, Krampla W, Fischer P, Budka H. Non-Alzheimer neurodegenerative pathologies and their combinations are more frequent than commonly believed in the elderly brain: a community-based autopsy series. Acta Neuropathol. 2013 Sep;126(3):365-84.

Neurosciences – one of the five research clusters at the MedUni Vienna
The “Neurosciences” research cluster is one of the five clusters at the MedUni Vienna which are increasingly focusing on fundamental and clinical research. The other four research clusters are cancer research / oncology, vascular / cardiac medicine, allergology / immunology / infectiology, and imaging.

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