According to new peer-reviewed research, alongside memory, the network of wake-promoting brain cells that keep us from crashing throughout the day is demolished in the wash of dementia’s pathology. As the disease proceeds to claim about 50 million patients a year worldwide-a number that is suspected to surge considerably by 2050, experts race to uncover as many correlative predictors as they can, in the hopes to mitigate cognitive decline before irreversible carnage begins.
Profound degeneration of neurons
Panelists from this year’s Alzheimer’s Association International conference presented an alternate method of identifying abnormal brain changes associated with cognitive decline via blood testing. Optimistically, these tests are designed to locate clumps of beta-amyloid proteins earlier in the condition’s devolvement than traditional Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.
Although it was previously thought that these protein build-ups contributed to the degeneration of wake-promoting neurons the new report published last Monday in the Journal of Alzheimer’s and Dementia, posits that toxic clumps of a protein called tau might actually be doing the majority of the damage. Frequent fatigue is one of the most identifiable consequences of this decay, even if researchers have yet to determine if atypical sleep patterns exacerbate risks or if the disturbed sleep was a neurological indicator of the early stages of dementia.
Lead author Dr. Jun Oh, based at the Memory and Ageing Centre at UCSF, wrote in the study, “The three nuclei studied accumulate considerable amounts of tau inclusions and showed a decrease in neurotransmitter-synthetizing neurons in AD, PSP, and corticobasal degeneration. However, substantial neuronal loss was exclusively found in AD.”
Dr. Jun Oh and his team occasioned the same objective as the authors behind the recent beta-amyloid blood test report published in the journal of Neurology. The condition’s trajectory is maddened by how late it’s symptoms reveal themselves. In the nearly two decades it takes for cell damage to manifest in an overt lapse in memory — difficulty with speech, forgetting the year, etc. — the brain is most often several miles past the point wherein medication would be of any utility. If non-invasive tools of diagnosis can be aided by subtle, early predictors, experts might have a shot at reigning in the chaos.
Without notable nighttime sleep aberrations, the new reports posit that excessive daytime napping might very well be one of the earliest neurogenerative markers of dementia, more discreetly, Alzheimer’s. A post-modem analyst of 13 Alzheimer’s patients retrieved from the UCSF Neurodegenerative Disease Brain Bank.revealed that the three regions of the brain associated with wakefulness had lost 75% of their neurons.
“Our work shows definitive evidence that the brain areas promoting wakefulness degenerate due to accumulation of tau — not amyloid protein — from the very earliest stages of the disease,” commented study senior author Lea T. Grinberg, MD, PhD, an associate professor of neurology and pathology at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center and a member of the Global Brain Health Institute and UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences to Science Daily.
The findings are published in the peer-reviewed journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia by lead author Lea Grinberg, professor of neurology at the University of California San Francisco.