Latest news

  • A mobile phone game designed to test spatial navigation skills (Sea Hero Quest) has found that performance can distinguish APOE4 carriers from non-carriers.
  • Preliminary findings from a long-term study indicate that middle-aged adults with close relatives with Alzheimer's did worse on a test that measured their ability to visualise their position, and tended to have a smaller hippocampus.
  • A small study found that increasing difficulties with building cognitive maps of new surroundings was linked to Alzheimer's biomarkers. Difficulties in learning a new route appeared later, among those with early Alzheimer's.

Mobile game detects Alzheimer's risk

  • A study involving nearly 600 older adults found that using two different episodic memory tests markedly improved MCI diagnosis, compared with only using one.
  • A large study found that the clock drawing test was better than the MMSE in identifying cognitive impairment, and concludes it should be given to all patients with high blood pressure.
  • A largish study of middle-aged men confirmed that practice effects mask cognitive decline in those who have experience repeated testing.
  • A large study indicates that verb fluency is a better test than the more usual word fluency tests, and poorer verb fluency was linked to faster decline to MCI and progression from MCI to dementia.
  • A smallish study found that a brief, simple number naming test differentiates between cognitively healthy older adults and those with MCI or Alzheimer's 90% of the time.
  • A study involving 450 patients with memory problems found that those with anosognosia (unawareness of such problems) had higher rates of amyloid-beta clumps and were more likely to develop dementia in the next 2 years.
  • Another larger study found that those with anosognosia  had reduced glucose uptake in specific brain regions.
  • A new cognitive test that assesses relational memory has been found to be effective in distinguishing very early mild Alzheimer's from normal aging.

Memory tests predict brain atrophy and Alzheimer's disease

  • A study found an association in healthy older adults between higher amyloid beta levels and worsening anxiety.

Data from the Harvard Aging Brain Study found that higher amyloid beta levels were associated with increasing anxiety symptoms in cognitively normal older adults. The results suggest that worsening anxious-depressive symptoms may be an early predictor of elevated amyloid beta levels.

  • A new test can quickly detect reduced blood capillaries in the back of the eye that are an early indication of Alzheimer's, and shows that it can help distinguish Alzheimer's from MCI.

A study has shown new technology can quickly and non-invasively detect reduced blood capillaries in the back of the eye that are an early indication of Alzheimer's.

  • A long-running study found subtle cognitive deficits evident 11-15 years before clear impairment, as were changes in tau protein.

A very long-running study involving 290 people at risk of Alzheimer's has found that, in those 81 people who developed

  • A large study found that most of those who were very poor at identifying common odors developed dementia within 5 years.
  • A study of older adults with a parent who had Alzheimer's found that those who were poorest at identifying odors showed the most Alzheimer's biomarkers.
  • A largish study found that poorer odor identification in older adults (average age 80) )was associated with a transition to dementia and with cognitive decline.
  • An animal study found olfactory dysfunction precedes cognitive problems, and relates amyloid-beta protein in the olfactory epithelium.
  • A large 13-year study found that a poor sense of smell was linked to a greater risk of death within 10 years, and of death from dementia and Parkinson’s disease in particular.

A long-term study of nearly 3,000 older adults (57-85) has found that those who couldn’t identify at least four out of five common odors were more than twice as likely as those with a normal sense of smell to develop dementia within five years.

  • A blood-clotting protein called fibrinogen has been shown to provoke the brain's immune cells into destroying synapses. The process begins with fibrinogen leaking from the blood into the brain.
  • Another study has found that nearly half of all dementias begin with a breakdown of the gatekeeper cells (pericytes) that help keep fibrinogen out of the brain.

Alzheimer's disease is associated with abnormalities in the vast network of blood vessels in the brain, but it hasn’t been known how this affects cognition. A study has now shown that a blood-clotting protein called fibrinogen plays a part.

  • Blood flow deficits in the brain, seen early on in Alzheimer's, have now been linked to some capilleries being block by white blood cells.

It’s been known that decreased blood flow in the brain occurs in people with Alzheimer's, and recent studies suggest that brain blood flow deficits are one of the earliest detectable symptoms of dementia.

  • A study shows that blood is stored in the blood vessels in the space between the brain and skull, and its flow  is closely linked to the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in and out of the brain's ventricles.
  • A second study shows that capilleries, the smallest blood vessels in the brain, monitor the flow of blood within the brain and actively direct it to the areas that need it the most.

Increases in brain activity are matched by increases in blood flow. Neurons require a huge amount of energy, but can’t store it themselves, so must rely on blood to deliver the nutrients they need.

Two new studies help explain how blood flow is controlled.

  • Age-related changes in gene enhancers have been linked to faster cognitive decline in Alzheimer's brains.

New findings identify a mechanism that accelerates aging in the brain and gives rise to Alzheimer's disease.

  • A mouse study has shown that, as cells age, their ability to remove damaged proteins and structures (autophagy) declines, due to a decrease in the cell components (autophagosomes) that collect the damaged proteins.
  • A study found that the process of breaking down defective mitochondria and recycling the components (mitophagy) is impaired in those with Alzheimer's.
  • Microglia clear damage by engulfing the damaged matter then releasing it inside exosomes, which can be absorbed by other cells. Studies have now shown that these exosomes, designed to transmit information, can also spread harmful tau & amyloid-beta protein.
  • A mouse study has shown how amyloid plaques lead to tau tangles, and that weakened microglia facilitate this. It also links weak microglia to the risky variant of the TREM2 gene.
  • However, the common TREM2 variant is linked to faster plaque growth at later stages.
  • TREM2 appears to modify the way immune cells respond to tau tangles.
  • Another mouse study found that overactive microglia (achieved by turning off another gene) were linked to both better removal of amyloid-beta, and loss of synapses. This may help explain why reducing amyloid plaques often fails to improve cognition.

Aging linked to impaired garbage collection in the brain

  • Study indicates APOE4 carriers are only at greater Alzheimer's risk if they have chronic inflammation.
  • Large study finds increasing inflammation linked to more white matter damage.
  • Common causes of chronic inflammation include cardiovascular disease, heart failure, diabetes, high blood pressure and infections.

Link found between chronic inflammation and Alzheimer's gene risk

  • Synapses in Alzheimer's brains found to be clogged with clusterin and amyloid-beta proteins, and APOE4 carriers had more protein clumps than those without the gene variant.
  • APOE4 decreases activity in hippocampus that is critical for memory consolidation.
  • Study of Amazonian hunter-gatherers show APOE4 gene can provide benefits when exposure to parasites is high.

Alzheimer's gene linked to damage to brain connections

A study has found that synapses in people who had died with Alzheimer's contained clumps of clusterin and clumps of amyloid beta. These protein clumps may be damaging the links between neurons.

  • More evidence that Alzheimer's disease is not a single disease with a single cause and single pathway comes from a large study classifying patients into 6 groups, only two of which showed strong genetic association.
  • Another study using post-mortem brain tissue found that different genes were associated with different types of brain damage.

A study involving 4,050 people with late-onset Alzheimer's disease (mean age 80) has classified them into six groups based on their cognitive functioning at the time of diagnosis. A genetic study found two of the groups showed strong genetic associations.

  • Very large study finds 5 new genes linked to increased Alzheimer's risk.
  • A rare gene variant that protects APOE4 gene carriers from getting Alzheimer's has been identified.
  • Two large surveys found that verbal recall score was significantly affected by TOMM40 genotype. TOMM40 is adjacent to APOE on their chromosome.
  • A study found that TOMM40's effect on Alzheimer's depends on parental history.
  • Data from three very large studies has produced a tool for assessing an individual's genetic risk for developing Alzheimer's, based on 31 genetic markers.
  • A small study found that, of the top 9 genes that affect Alzheimer's risk, excluding the APOE gene, only 2 affect brain atrophy.
  • A new gene variant that is associated with greater amyloid plaque than APOE4 has been identified.

Five new risk genes for Alzheimer's disease

Genetic data from more than 94,000 individuals has revealed five new risk genes for Alzheimer's disease, and confirmed 20 known others. The new genes are: IQCK, ACE, ADAM10, ADAMTS1 and WWOX.

  • Brain scans suggest that tau proteins may spread more rapidly through women’s brains, increasing Alzheimer's risk and speeding its progression.

Accumulating evidence suggests that tau spreads through brain tissue like an infection, traveling from

  • Review found APOE4 carriers scored lower on IQ tests during childhood and adolescence.
  • A large internet-based study found that adults with a first-degree relative with Alzheimer's performed worse on a paired-learning task.

Alzheimer's gene affects IQ from childhood

Analysis of some old longitudinal studies has found that those carrying the APOE4 gene scored lower on IQ tests during childhood and adolescence. The effect was much stronger in girls than in boys, and affected reasoning most strongly.

  • A gene present in 75% of the human population may be a key reason why a class of drugs for Alzheimer’s disease seem promising in animal studies but fail in human studies.
  • Cell study finds APOE4 protein is slightly misshapen, causing it to break down into disease-causing fragments. But APOE4 doesn't affect amyloid-beta in mice.

Data from a ten-year study involving 345 Alzheimer's patients has found that

  • A review of growth mind-set research has found the correlation between growth mind-set and academic achievement was very weak, and may be restricted to some groups of students.

In the education world, fixed mind-set is usually contrasted with growth mind-set. In this context, fixed mind-set refers to students holding the idea that their cognitive abilities, including their intelligence, are set at birth, and they just have to accept their limitations.

  • A large study has found that smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity are each linked to more brain atrophy, and damage to white matter.
  • The more of these you have, the greater the shrinkage and damage.

Brain scans of 9,772 people aged 44 to 79, who were enrolled in the UK Biobank study, have revealed that smoking, high blood pressure, high pulse pressure, diabetes, and high BMI — but not high cholesterol — were all linked to greater brain shrinkage, less

Pages

Research topics