Published on: June 10, 2016
by Alison Potter for NewsMax:
The changes in an Alzheimer’s brain are significant and lasting. These changes affect brain structure, function, and chemistry.
Healthline explains that and Alzheimer’s brain undergoes the following five changes during the course of the disease.
1. Plaque formation — Within the spaces between the brain’s nerve cells, bundles of toxic plaque, beta-amyloid, form in Alzheimer’s patients. The bundles of protein stick together and form a plaque that fills in the synapses — areas where information is passed between nerve cells — causing synapse signals to be disrupted. Research is being conducted to determine whether the plaque causes Alzheimer’s or if the disease process causes the bundles of plaque.
2. Tangle formation and cell death — Nerve cells naturally contain a protein called tau, which is responsible for stabilizing microtubules. Microtubules transport nutrients. Protein threads become tangled in an Alzheimer’s brain causing the microtubules and nutrient transportation to break down. Consequently, neuron communication is damaged and cells can’t receive nutrients which ultimately causes the death of brain cells.
3. Loss of connections between neurons — Synapse signals enable the brain’s 100 billion neurons to continually communicate with one another. The production of plaque bundles and tangles creates damaged signals and connections. The brain’s messages are lost leading to cell death which effects learning, memory, and communication.
4. Inflammation of the brain — An immune response in the brain and spinal cord causes inflammation in the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient. The microglia cell perceives the beta-amyloid plaque as an injury to the nerve cells. The microglia initiates an immune response that creates inflammation to attempt to heal the perceived cell injury. The increase in inflammation creates additional brain cell damage.
5. Brain tissue shrinks — The combination of plaque, tangles, lost connections, and brain inflammation eventually leads to brain atrophy and shrinkage. The damage is to the cortex which covers the cerebrum. Damage to the cortex affects recall, concentration, and the ability to plan ahead.
The Alzheimer’s Association explains that though the causes for cell failure are still unknown, Alzheimer’s disease has multiple risk factors such as older age, a family history of the disease, and the presence of the APOE-e4 gene.
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