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Scientists Identify Area of Brain Where Alzheimer's Begins

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerMay 22, 2017

A study has led scientists to the spot in the brain where Alzheimer’s begins, allowing new insight into the pathology of the disease and encouraging prevention methods to slow or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s.

Learn more about this study and its implication on the war against the disease.

The Area of the Brain Where Alzheimer’s Begins

A study, published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, has revealed the location in the brain where Alzheimer’s begins.

Researchers from the University of Southern California conducted the study, and they believe that Alzheimer’s first strikes a vulnerable part of the brain called the “locus coeruleus.” The locus coeruleus may show damage decades before people begin to show symptoms of the disease, as early as the mid-twenties for some people.

The area of the brain is located near the base of the brain stem and releases norepinephrine, which is a chemical released to regulate attention, cognition, heart rate and memory. Other studies have found that norepinephrine can help protect brain cells from inflammation. Researchers found that this part of the brain is the first to show build of the toxic tau protein, a hallmark characteristic of the disease.

How the Finding Encourages Alzheimer’s Prevention Methods

In addition to helping researchers learn more about the progression of Alzheimer’s, scientists hope their discovery will encourage prevention measures. The research team believes that norepinephrine can help slow brain decline. Norepinephrine is released when the brain feels challenged, leading researchers to encourage engaging the brain in complex activities, like completing crosswords or even having a complicated job.

Professor Mara Mather, expert in aging and cognition and author of the study, said, “Education and engaging careers produce late-life ‘cognitive reserve,’ or effective brain performance, despite encroaching pathology. Activation of the locus coeruleus-norepinephrine system by novelty and mental challenge throughout one’s life may contribute to cognitive reserve.”

Dr. Rosa Sancho of Alzheimer’s Research UK, is optimistic about the team’s findings, stating:

“It’s important that researchers around the world investigate the initial stages of Alzheimer’s and explore why some parts of the brain are more vulnerable to damage than others, as this will help in the hunt for new treatments.”

What do you think about the area of the brain where Alzheimer’s begins? Are you optimistic about the discovery’s impact on disease prevention methods? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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