According to a new review of scientific literature, scientists discovered the ground zero of Alzheimer’s disease. A group of researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) managed to pinpoint which region of the brain is first affected by Alzheimer’s. They believe continuous mental activity might prevent the development of this disease.
As their new study suggests, the locus coeruleus is the most vulnerable region of the brain, which is affected first by Alzheimer’s. Locus coeruleus is a small nucleus located in the pons. It produces norepinephrine, which is both a neurotransmitter and a hormone. Norepinephrine can affect heart rate, glucose release and blood flow. The locus coeruleus is interconnected with many body processes: attention memory, cognitive function, identifiying new information.
Moreover, locus coeruleus plays an important part in the physiological reactions to stress and axiety. According to Mara Mather, the main author of the study, locus coeruleus’ interconnectedness makes it more vulnerable to the toxin’s effects and infections than other brain parts. In addition, Mather claimed the locus coeruleus is the first brain part to show tau pathology.
The tau pathology is seen as the slow spreading tangles of protein which later becomes a symptom of Alzheimer’s. She also stated that most of the individuals have a few markers of tau pathology in the locus coeruleus. It was found the norepinephrine released by the locus coeruleus may help prevent Alzheimer’s symptoms. Tests with rats and mice revealed that norepinephrine protects neurons from determinants that destroy the cells accelerating Alzheimer’s disease.
The determinants can take the form of inflammation or exaggerated stimulation from other neurotransmitters. An increase amount of norepinephrine could contribute to the prevention of the disease. Norepinephrine is known to be released when individuals engage in mentally challenging activities such as: completing a word puzzle, tackling difficult problems or playing a complicated piece of music.
Mara Mather explained that
‘Education and engaging careers produce late-life ‘cognitive reserve,’ or effective brain performance, despite encroaching pathology.’
The fact that researchers managed to point out the Ground Zero of Alzheimer’s Disease is a great step to further studies about the initial stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The new results may help experts find new treatments for individuals with this disease. Further details on this subject can be found in the February issue of Trends in Cognitive Science.
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