Findings could help explain how some people stave off dementia
The human brain is capable of a neural workaround that compensates for the buildup of beta-amyloid, a destructive protein associated with Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.
Shown are fMRI scans across all subjects in the study. The yellow and red areas in Section A represent parts of the brain that are activated while subjects are forming 'gist memories' of pictures viewed. Section B represents areas of increased activation, shown in yellow and red, as detailed memories are being formed.
Credit: Image courtesy of Jagust Lab
The findings, to be published Sunday, Sept. 14, in the journal Nature Neuroscience, could help explain how some older adults with beta-amyloid deposits in their brain retain normal cognitive function while others develop dementia.
"This study provides evidence that there is plasticity or compensation ability in the aging brain that appears to be beneficial, even in the face of beta-amyloid accumulation," said study principal investigator Dr. William Jagust, a professor with joint appointments at UC Berkeley's Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, the School of Public Health and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Previous studies have shown a link between increased brain activity and beta-amyloid deposits, but it was unclear whether the activity was tied to better mental performance.
The study included 22 healthy young adults and 49 older adults who had no signs of mental decline. Brain scans showed that 16 of the older subjects had beta-amyloid deposits, while the remaining 55 adults did not.
The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to track the brain activity of subjects in the process of memorizing pictures of various scenes. Afterwards, the researchers tested the subjects' "gist memory" by asking them to confirm whether a written description of a scene – such as a boy doing a handstand – corresponded to a picture previously viewed. Subjects were then asked to confirm whether specific written details of a scene – such as the color of the boy's shirt – were true.
"Generally, the groups performed equally well in the tasks, but it turned out that for people with beta-amyloid deposits in the brain, the more detailed and complex their memory, the more brain activity there was," said Jagust. "It seems that their brain has found a way to compensate for the presence of the proteins associated with Alzheimer's."
What remains unclear, said Jagust, is why some people with beta-amyloid deposits are better at using different parts of their brain than others. Previous studies suggest that people who engage in mentally stimulating activities throughout their lives have lower levels of beta-amyloid.
"I think it's very possible that people who spend a lifetime involved in cognitively stimulating activity have brains that are better able to adapt to potential damage," said Jagust.
Co-lead authors of the study are Jeremy Elman and Hwamee Oh, both of whom were postdoctoral researchers in Jagust's lab.
The National Institute on Aging and the McKnight Foundation helped support this research.
Sarah Yang | Eurek Alert!
Inflammation Triggers Unsustainable Immune Response to Chronic Viral Infection
24.10.2016 | Universität Basel
Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia
21.10.2016 | Universitätsklinikum Magdeburg
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences
25.10.2016 | Life Sciences
25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences