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Published on: February 27, 2016
by Rashmi Kalia for University Herald:
In a new study, researchers have identified a region of the brain, called “ground zero” for Alzheimer’s in the brain, which the disease strikes first and a region that needs to be kept sharp, Fox News reports.
The study is published in the February edition of Trends in Cognitive Science.
The study revealed that the locus coeruleus, a small part of the brainstem, is the first region of the brain to exhibit tau pathology, a marker for Alzheimer’s disease.
Lead study author Mara Mather, a gerontology and psychology professor at the University of Southern California, said that most people have some signs of tau pathology in this brain region by early adulthood.
Maher and her team said that this region of the brain is more vulnerable to infections and toxins compared to other brain regions due to its interconnectedness.
The locus coeruleus releases norepinephrine, the neurotransmitter that helps regulate heart rate, attention, memory and cognition.
The release of norepinephrine may play a role in Alzheimer’s prevention, according to the release.
According to Mara Mather, production of norepinephrine is triggered when someone is mentally engaged or challenged by an intellectual activity, Medical Daily reports.
“Education and engaging careers produce late-life ‘cognitive reserve,’ or effective brain performance, despite encroaching pathology,” Mather said in the release. “Activation of the locus coeruleus-norepinephrine system by novelty and mental challenge throughout one’s life may contribute to cognitive reserve.”
According to Daily Mail, Dr Rosa Sancho of Alzheimer’s Research UK said,
‘The research highlights that the locus coeruleus could play an important role in maintaining memory and thinking skills and research is underway to understand how changes in this critical region impact on brain health as we age.
‘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.’
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