The Alzheimer's Puzzle: New Study Supports Amyloid Hypothesis

Contributed by: Dennis Fortier, President, Medical Care Corporation

In a study published last week in Neuron, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found a high correlation between amyloid plaque formation and decreasing brain function. This is consistent with the amyloid hypothesis that such plaques play a central role in Alzheiemr's disease.

One weakness of this hypothesis has been the discovery of older people with heavy plaque loads in their brains and no memory loss. Some have suggested that this is evidence that another culprit, distinct from or in addition to amyloid, must be causing the loss of cognitive function.

In this present study, researchers noted a correlation between the accumulation of plaques and the activity in a key neural circuit associated with epidosic memory formation. With this research, a nuanced view is that the amyloid plaques interfere with the process of memory formation but the brain compensates and continues to function adequately for some time as the plaque load increases.

In this way, the amyloid hypothesis may still explain impaired memory but through a more complex process that takes longer to play out. As such, it would be possible for an individual to maintain a high plaque load and to preserve short-term memory for some period of time.

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