A major discovery has been made in the research of Alzheimer’s disease, as reported in the July 2018 edition of JAMA Neurology. Researchers at Yale University Alzheimer’s Research center have been able to measure the density of neural synapses in living patients. Up until the present, measurement of synaptic density was only possible in brains of people after they died.
Levels of a certain protein, SV2A, found in the transmission of neurotransmitter chemicals from one neuron to another were measured with position emission tomography (PET). The participants with MCI or mild Alzheimer’s disease who were compared to cognitively unimpaired individuals were found to have significantly less SV2A in the neural synapses in the hippocampus indicating a decrease in synaptic binding. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that forms memories, and it has been established that there is a relationship to damage in that area and Alzheimer’s disease.
The PET scan results also correlated with scores on episodic (short term) memory tests as well as those for Alzheimer’s. Other brain imaging tests, though protein was measured, did not offer the correlation with tests for cognition, which is fundamental to the study.
This important breakthrough of a reliable test for synaptic density in living people can provide a better measure of disease progression and help in evaluation of treatment with drugs in clinical trials. Reference: Chen MK, et al. Assessing synaptic density in Alzheimer disease with synaptic vesicle glycoprotein 2A positron emission tomographic imaging. JAMA Neurology 2018 July 16.
A Swedish study that spanned four decades and involved 200 women discovered that those who have high levels of physical activity in middle age are 90% less likely to develop dementia as compared to women who are moderately fit. The women were tested for physical fitness by means of a bicycle test and were monitored and tested for evidence of dementia. They found that the average age for the onset of dementia was 90 for those highly fit and 79 for moderately fit women. Reference: Mind Report.newsmax.com
If that doesn’t make you want to get up and move, this next study will!
Multiple studies have shown that physical exercise helps to protect memory and cognitive function. It can also increase the size of the hippocampus, where memories are created. Research conducted at UCLA explored the impact of sitting and the brain’s hippocampal thickness. After recruiting 35 volunteers they recored how many hours they spent sitting each day the previous week. They then performed MRI scans to measure the medial temporal lobe where new memories are formed. There was a correlation between the number of hours of sedentary behavior and thinning of the lobe. Note: This was a small study and more research needs to be done and variables taken into consideration before general conclusions can be drawn. Reference: Mind Report.newsmax.com
Do you know anyone hard of hearing who doesn’t always wear their hearing aids? They may not want to bother or want to deliberately tune people out. Let them know: Loss of hearing is a significant risk factor for dementia.
Experts don’t know yet what links hearing loss to dementia, but it is suggested that it may be due to the decrease in social interaction. If you don’t understand what is being said and don’t participate fully in conversations, you may lose the benefits that come from that type of mental stimulation. Reference: Alzheimer’s Association
Excellent sites to see what is being done currently in research for dementia and Alzheimer’s and opportunities to participate in clinical trials:
National Institute on Aging www.nia.nih.gov
Bright Focus Foundation www.brightfocus.org
Alzheimer’s Association alz.org