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Link between brain stimulation and Alzheimer's prevention

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A research study using PET scans to examine the brains of healthy older people reveals that those who have been mentally stimulated all their lives, doing things like reading, writing, and playing games and puzzles, have fewer deposits of beta-amyloid. This is the destructive protein that is the indicator of Alzheimer’s disease. These findings could encourage scientists to think about the role of mental stimulation on the health of the brain.

Beta amyloid deposits in the brain are fibrils of proteins that have misfolded into fibrous sheet structures that accumulate in the brain and clog the spaces between brain cells. They are the hallmark of Alzheimer’s and the focus of much research in preventing and treating the disease. While people have speculated that brain activity may ward off Alzheimer’s there has been no definitive evidence of that, until now.

“This is the first time cognitive activity level has been related to amyloid buildup in the brain,” said lead author Susan Landau, a research scientist at the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute and the Berkeley Lab.

“Rather than simply providing resistance to Alzheimer’s, brain-stimulating activities ay affect a primary pathological process in the disease. This suggest that cognitive therapies could have significant disease-modifying treatment benefits if applied early enough, before symptoms appear,” said Dr. William Jagust, a professor at Berkeley’s Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute.

Genes and age are also responsible for amyloid buildup. While there is nothing we can do about that, we can stimulate our brains and take a defensive stance against the cognitive dysfunction. “Amyloid probably starts accumulating many years before symptoms appear. So it’s possible that by the time you have symptoms of Alzheimer’s, like memory problems, there is little that can be done to stop disease progression,” said Landau.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Archives of Neurology

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