Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Young adults at future risk of Alzheimer's have different brain activity

08.04.2009
Young adults with a genetic variant that raises their risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease show changes in their brain activity decades before any symptoms might arise, according to a new brain imaging study by scientists from the University of Oxford and Imperial College London. The results may support the idea that the brain's memory function may gradually wear itself out in those who go on to develop Alzheimer's.

The research, published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provides clues as to why certain people develop Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and it may be a step towards a diagnostic test that identifies individuals at risk. The degenerative condition is the most common cause of dementia and it affects around 417,000 people in the UK.

The APOE4 genetic variant is found in about a quarter of the population. Not everyone who carries the variant will go on to develop AD, but people who inherit one copy of APOE4 have up to four times the normal risk of developing the late-onset variety of the disease. People who have two copies have around ten times the normal risk.

The researchers behind today's study stress that most carriers of APOE4 will not go on to develop Alzheimer's and carriers should not be alarmed by the study's findings.

Differences in the region of the brain involved in memory, known as the hippocampus, have previously been shown in middle-aged and elderly healthy carriers of APOE4. However, the new Oxford University and Imperial study is the first to show hyperactivity in the hippocampus of healthy young carriers. It is also the first to show that APOE4 carriers' brains behave differently even at 'rest'.

The study used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) carried out at the University of Oxford to compare activity inside the brains of 36 volunteers, with 18 carrying at least one copy of the APOE4 gene and 18 non-carriers acting as controls.

All the volunteers in the study were aged between 20 and 35 and all performed normally on tasks designed to test their cognitive skills.

The researchers looked at how the volunteers' brains behaved while they were resting and also while they were performing a memory-related task. Even when the APOE4 carriers were resting, the researchers could see that carriers and non-carriers each had distinct patterns of brain activity. The fMRI scans showed visible differences in how the hippocampus was relating to the rest of the brain.

The researchers will now carry out a similar study of patients with mild cognitive impairment to explore how these differences in patterns of brain activity in young people may be associated with later changes.

Dr Clare Mackay, the lead author of the study from the Department of Psychiatry and the Centre for Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain at the University of Oxford, said: "We have shown that brain activity is different in people with this version of the gene decades before any memory problems might develop. We've also shown that this form of fMRI, where people just lie in the scanner doing nothing, is sensitive enough to pick up these changes. These are exciting first steps towards a tantalising prospect: a simple test that will be able to distinguish who will go on to develop Alzheimer's."

Dr Christian Beckmann, another author of today's study from the Division of Neurosciences and Mental Health at Imperial College London, added: "Our brains are always active - our minds wander even when we're not carrying out specific tasks. We were surprised to see that even when the volunteers carrying APOE4 weren't being asked to do anything, you could see the memory part of the brain working harder than it was in the other volunteers. Not all APOE4 carriers go on to develop Alzheimer's, but it would make sense if in some people, the memory part of the brain effectively becomes exhausted from overwork and this contributes to the disease. This theory is supported by studies that have found the opposite pattern in people who have developed Alzheimer's, with these people showing less activity than normal in the memory part of the brain."

Laura Gallagher | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.imperial.ac.uk

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT

nachricht Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>