House of Mind

"Biology gives you a brain. Life turns it into a mind" - Jeffrey Eugenides

  • 18th August
    2013
  • 18
Changes in Brain Activity Precede Cognitive Decline
Researchers believe molecular changes in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease may begin two or more decades before symptoms appear. The above diagram displays the sequence in which specific biomarkers may contribute to disease progression. Click on the image for source and additional information. 
Studies show that abnormal accumulation of beta-amyloid and tau proteins — the main pathological partners in the disease — occur 10 to 20 years before the onset of AD symptoms. Lori Beason-Held and colleagues at the National Institute on Aging wanted to know whether they could use positron emission tomography (PET) to identify changes in brain function before cognitive symptoms of the disease emerged.
As part of an ongoing, 18-year study, Beason-Held’s group collected yearly PET brain scans and performed a battery of cognitive tests on older adults, some of whom began to show cognitive decline several years into the study. When analyzing the results of the PET scans from previous years, the researchers found that those who developed cognitive impairment had increased brain activity in the frontal lobe and decreased activity in temporal and parietal lobe areas, regions vulnerable to early beta-amyloid and tau accumulation in AD.
“These findings are important because we’re seeing changes in brain activity in areas critical for specific aspects of cognition long before people start showing symptoms of cognitive decline,” Beason-Held said.

Changes in Brain Activity Precede Cognitive Decline

Researchers believe molecular changes in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease may begin two or more decades before symptoms appear. The above diagram displays the sequence in which specific biomarkers may contribute to disease progression. Click on the image for source and additional information. 

Studies show that abnormal accumulation of beta-amyloid and tau proteins — the main pathological partners in the disease — occur 10 to 20 years before the onset of AD symptoms. Lori Beason-Held and colleagues at the National Institute on Aging wanted to know whether they could use positron emission tomography (PET) to identify changes in brain function before cognitive symptoms of the disease emerged.

As part of an ongoing, 18-year study, Beason-Held’s group collected yearly PET brain scans and performed a battery of cognitive tests on older adults, some of whom began to show cognitive decline several years into the study. When analyzing the results of the PET scans from previous years, the researchers found that those who developed cognitive impairment had increased brain activity in the frontal lobe and decreased activity in temporal and parietal lobe areas, regions vulnerable to early beta-amyloid and tau accumulation in AD.

“These findings are important because we’re seeing changes in brain activity in areas critical for specific aspects of cognition long before people start showing symptoms of cognitive decline,” Beason-Held said.

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