One major impetus for the development of behavioral medicine and the growth of the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research has been the growing realization that the deadly and greatly feared diseases of our time have clear behavioral components. Where once the most serious diseases were caused by pathogens spread by casual contact, animals, or other largely uncontrollable agents, major diseases of our time, heart disease, HIV, and cancer, are often caused by or associated with the things we do, eat, smoke, drink, and how we cope with life's demands. In particular, two "new" diseases and one considerably older one promise to shape a good deal of biobehavioral research as we approach the millennium. AIDS (or HIV), Alzheimer's disease, and cancer constitute major public health problems in the world today. All three have important behavioral aspects, and all are debilitating, potentially deadly, and only partly understood. It is these chronic illnesses of the 1990s that are the focus of this book.
Many serious, life-threatening, and/or chronic diseases affect cognitive functioning, either because of damage to neural tissue, disruption of nervous system function, or mood and attention changes. Alzheimer's disease has become the primary source of intellectual impairment among older people and, in part because victims often must receive full-time care, constitutes a major social and economic problem as well as a health issue. Three chapters in the first section of the book address the impact of Alzheimer's disease. Pappolla and Robakis (chap. 1) address the neuropathology and molecular biology of Alzheimer's disease, describing the pathophysiology of senile and pre-senile dementia. Of particular importance for readers interested in biobehavioral determinants of disease course or outcome is the detailed discussion of the origin and development of amyloid