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Living with Alzheimer'sManaging Memory Loss, Identity, and Illness$
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Renée L. Beard

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781479800117

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479800117.001.0001

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History and Technoscience

History and Technoscience

From Senility to Alzheimer’s

(p.21) 2 History and Technoscience
Living with Alzheimer's

Renée L. Beard

NYU Press

This chapter challenges readers to interrogate our understanding of Alzheimer’s, how definitions have changed over time, whether or not efficacious treatments actually exist, and the impact of scientific quests for earlier diagnosis. Despite the fact that AD cannot be definitely diagnosed premortem, the National Institutes of Health has devoted many billions of dollars to it. The history of memory loss, including the German psychiatrist whose 1906 patient became the first case of AD and the new diagnostic guidelines proposed in 2011, is outlined. Tracing the nascent memory sciences and the technological innovations that now enable earlier diagnosis of the condition demonstrates the virtual monopoly biomedicine has over AD. Sociologically speaking, diagnosing Alzheimer’s as early in the trajectory as possible generates individuals who are both able to discuss their experiences and to practice technologies of the self, thus providing a lens for investigating the effect of diagnostic trends on illness narratives.

Keywords:   illness narratives, biomedicine, Alois Alzheimer, technological innovations, memory sciences, premortem, diagnostic guidelines, National Institutes of Health, technologies of self

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