Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Alzheimer's Patients Stuck in Forgetting Mode

news you may not knowToday - Something Special?

Do you have a perfect memory? Doubtful. In fact, a process of forming new memories and forgetting old ones continually takes place in our brains. Yes, of course - it's the perfect excuse for the next time you forget your wife's birthday. But, it also sheds some quite interesting light on Alzheimer's disease (AD).

Researchers at the Buck Institute for Age Research recently discovered a surprising correlation between Alzheimer's patients and young, healthy individuals without AD. Both groups experience a constant process of forgetting. The young actually forget events much more frequently and rapidly than Alzheimer's patients. But, they also form new memories simultaneously. People with Alzheimer's appear to be stuck in the forgetting mode.

The brain is in a constant process of cleaning out old, inconsequential memories to make way for new memories. There's no need for you to remember what you ate for breakfast last Thursday. But, there is that issue about your wife's birthday. The researchers now believe there is a biochemical "switch" that controls the making and breaking of memories. They believe Alzheimer's patients' brains become less malleable, and this switch becomes stuck in the mode of constantly breaking memories.

"Young brains operate like Ferraris - shifting between forward and reverse, making and breaking memories with a facility that surpasses that of older brains, which are less plastic," said Dale Bredesen, MD, Buck Institute faculty member and leader of the research group. "We believe that in aging brains, AD occurs when the 'molecular shifting switch' gets stuck in the reverse position, throwing the balance of making and breaking memories seriously off kilter."

Research continues into ways to disrupt this process of continual forgetting. Previous research, with mice, has been quite promising in overcoming the impact of Alzheimer's.

One last note - did you remember to write down your wife's birthday?

To read more about this study, see this from ScienceDaily. To learn more about Alzheimer's, including resource links, see this from the Alzheimer's Association.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alzheimer's can be prevented with sufficient anti-antioxidants. Here is a citation from PubMed.

Zandi PP, Anthony JC, Khachaturian AS, et al. Reduced risk of Alzheimer disease in users of antioxidant vitamin supplements: the Cache County Study. Arch Neurol. 2004 Jan; 61(1): 82-8

BACKGROUND: Antioxidants may protect the aging brain against oxidative damage associated with pathological changes of Alzheimer disease (AD).

OBJECTIVE: To examine the relationship between antioxidant supplement use and risk of AD. DESIGN: Cross-sectional and prospective study of dementia. Elderly (65 years or older) county residents were assessed in 1995 to 1997 for prevalent dementia and AD, and again in 1998 to 2000 for incident illness. Supplement use was ascertained at the first contact.
SETTING: Cache County, Utah.

PARTICIPANTS: Among 4740 respondents (93%) with data sufficient to determine cognitive status at the initial assessment, we identified 200 prevalent cases of AD. Among 3227 survivors at risk, we identified 104 incident AD cases at follow-up. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Diagnosis of AD by means of multistage assessment procedures.

RESULTS: Analyses of prevalent and incident AD yielded similar results. Use of vitamin E and C (ascorbic acid) supplements in combination was associated with reduced AD prevalence (adjusted odds ratio, 0.22; 95% confidence interval, 0.05-0.60) and incidence (adjusted hazard ratio, 0.36; 95% confidence interval, 0.09-0.99). A trend toward lower AD risk was also evident in users of vitamin E and multivitamins containing vitamin C, but we saw no evidence of a protective effect with use of vitamin E or vitamin C supplements alone, with multivitamins alone, or with vitamin B-complex supplements. CONCLUSIONS: Use of vitamin E and vitamin C supplements in combination is associated with reduced prevalence and incidence of AD. Antioxidant supplements merit further study as agents for the primary prevention of AD.

2:36 PM  

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