• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Scientists find start point for Alzheimer's

SCIENTISTS have pinpointed a specific part of the brain where Alzheimer's begins and traced how the disease spreads.

High resolution brain scans of 96 healthy adults over the age of 65 revealed the first footprint of Alzheimer's in a dozen individuals who went on to experience symptoms.

Reduced metabolic activity was seen in the lateral entorhinal cortex (LEC), a small region linked to the hippocampus where long-term memories are stored.

The change, associated with declining memory, occurred at a time when all 12 volunteers were free of dementia and was not seen in the 84 participants who did not develop Alzheimer's.

The study also showed how over time the effects of Alzheimer's spread from the LEC to other areas of the brain's cerebral cortex.

One region especially targeted was the parietal cortex, an area involved in various functions including spatial orientation and navigation.

Lead researcher Professor Scott Small, director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at Columbia University, in New York, said: "This study is the first to show in living patients that it begins specifically in the LEC.

"The LEC is considered to be a gateway to the hippocampus, which plays a key role in the consolidation of long-term memory, among other functions. If the LEC is affected, other aspects of the hippocampus will also be affected."

The scientists suspect Alzheimer's spreads through a kind of neural domino effect. Neurons are first compromised in the LEC, which in turn reduces the integrity of their neighbours.

The new imaging method could also be used to assess potential new drug treatments at early stages of the disease, said the researchers.

Contextual targeting label: 
Education

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

201724