Lead researcher Rebecca Ready, associate professor of psychology at UMass Amherst, says, “Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disease in which neuropathology begins to accumulate decades before clinical symptoms are noticeable. In order to maximize the opportunity for preventive interventions and treatment, it’s crucial that we identify early markers. Recent research is consistent with our results showing that a broader focus on early, preclinical markers for this disease is needed.”
“Our data suggest that investigators consider the possibility of subtle changes in processing speed even before clinical symptoms of mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease become apparent. The most valuable data about early Alzheimer’s disease will come from long-term studies among high-risk populations, and we hope to expand our current sample and follow them over time to determine which neuropsychological and brain volume measures are related to future cognitive decline.”
Ready and colleagues’ report appears in the current issue of the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias.
In this investigation supported by the UMass Amherst Research Development Office, she and colleagues used parental diagnosis of Alzheimer’s to recruit a genetically-enriched sample of 23 healthy, non-smoking adults (14 women, 9 men) with an average age of 55.8 years. As children of a parent with likely Alzheimer’s, they were considered to be at higher-than-average genetic risk. They agreed to genotyping and participated in several learning and memory, cognitive, motor and visual tests, a mood survey, a saliva assay for the stress hormone cortisol and an MRI.
The selection strategy yielded eight participants, or 35 percent of the original 23, who had the e4 variant of the genetic marker apolipoprotein (ApoE). ApoE e4 is associated with a three- to four-fold greater risk for Alzheimer’s than the estimated 14 to 25 per 100 rate in the wider population. The other 15 subjects had non-E4 variants or alleles of the Apo E gene.
Overall, ApoE e4 participants had similar education levels, verbal IQ scores, marital status, alcohol use, exercise habits, mood, stress levels, and good and bad life experiences over the previous year as participants who were not ApoE e4 positive, the authors say.
Participants attended two laboratory sessions. At the first, they took cognitive tests and were instructed how to collect and store cortisol samples by saliva swab at home over the next two days. Cognitive tests included measures of working memory, long-term memory storage, processing speed and visual scanning, among others. They also completed mood assessment, life events and personality tests. The second session, a few weeks after the first, was for MRI volumetric brain imaging.
Ready and colleagues compared measures for the eight participants in the ApoE e4 subgroup with results of the 15 participants who did not carry the e4 gene. They found that participants with the ApoE e4 marker performed significantly more slowly on an executive function test and had slower processing speed.
ApoE e4 subjects also had less brain volume in white matter. This lower white matter volume was significantly correlated with slower processing speed. “Processing speed and changes in white matter volume are candidate indicators of preclinical decline in Alzheimer’s disease,” Ready explains.
Finally, the ApoE e4 group had significantly greater morning rise in the stress marker cortisol as measured at waking and 30 minutes later, than the non-e4 group, but cortisol level was not associated with cognitive or brain volume measures. More research into associations between ApoE and cortisol is needed, the investigators note.
This study marks a break with past research by studying healthy people in midlife assumed to be at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than people who do not have a parent with the disease. “The vast majority of research on the effects of ApoE e4 on cognition and brain volume has been conducted on healthy, nondemented groups of older adults,” Ready notes. “We extended this line of research to a genetically-enriched, healthy sample of mid-life adults.”
Rebecca E. Ready | Newswise Science News
Biofilm discovery suggests new way to prevent dangerous infections
23.05.2017 | University of Texas at Austin
Another reason to exercise: Burning bone fat -- a key to better bone health
19.05.2017 | University of North Carolina Health Care
Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.
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Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
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An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
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