A new study from the University of Texas at Dallas Center for Vital Longevity (CVL) has revealed significant differences in brain network patterns between early-stage Alzheimer’s disease and normal aging.
The research provides new insights into the effects of Alzheimer’s disease on brain function and expands our understanding of the disease’s impact beyond the traditionally recognized areas of memory and attention.
Beyond memory and attention: Broader implications for brain function
Dr. Gagan Wig, associate professor of psychology and corresponding author of the study, explains that Alzheimer’s disease can cause brain dysfunction beyond memory and attention.
These dysfunctions could be apparent in the early stages of the disease, even with mild cognitive impairment, before Alzheimer’s is officially diagnosed.
The team’s findings suggest that Alzheimer’s-related changes in brain networks are independent of factors commonly associated with the disease, such as amyloid plaques.
Sensory and motor processing circuits are also affected
Contrary to the previous assumption that Alzheimer’s primarily affects memory and attention circuits in the brain, the researchers discovered significant changes in circuits involved in sensory and motor processing.
This discovery shows that the extent of Alzheimer’s-related cognitive impairment is greater than previously thought.
Dysfunction in these interconnected brain regions could serve as a new feature to identify cognitive impairments associated with Alzheimer’s and potentially provide targets for treatment.
Distinguishing between healthy aging and Alzheimer’s decline
The study highlights the importance of distinguishing healthy aging from Alzheimer’s decline.
While healthy aging primarily affects association systems (networks that control attention, memory, and language), Alzheimer’s affects both association systems and sensory/motor systems.
In healthy age, sensory and motor systems tend to remain stable, unlike in Alzheimer’s where they also show changes.
Methodology and results
The research involved studying the effects of age and Alzheimer’s disease severity on resting-state brain system segregation in over 600 people, both cognitively healthy and impaired.
The results showed that the severity of dementia is related not only to changes in association systems, but also to changes in sensory and motor systems.
This work was made possible by the extensive data from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI).
Implications for the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease
These results provide valuable clues for identifying behavioral deficits that occur in early stages of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
By further developing brain network-based Alzheimer’s biomarkers, scientists are getting closer to diagnosing Alzheimer’s and measuring the risk of the disease in healthy individuals.
The study represents a significant advance in understanding Alzheimer’s disease and its differentiation from the natural aging process.
If you are interested in dementia, please read the studies on “Scientists find a simple solution to fight dementia” and the findings on the top causes of memory loss, dementia you need to know.
For more information on brain health, check out recent studies on 9 Unhealthy Habits That Are Damaging Your Brain. The results show that this substance in cannabis can protect the aging brain and treat Alzheimer’s disease.
The research results can be found In The Journal of Neuroscience.
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