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Published on: January 25, 2014
by Rebekah Marcarelli for Headlines and Global News:
Inflammation that occurs after an infection could damage the brain’s ability to form spatial memories.
Inflammation has been linked to other impairments such as Alzheimer’s disease, this new research explains why this occurs and could help lead to the development of new drugs.
The researchers worked to image the process in which inflammation impairs memory. Researchers at Brighton and Sussex Medical School performed brain scans on 20 participants who received either a “benign salty water injection or typhoid vaccination, used to induce inflammation.” The team then used positron emission tomography (PET) to observe how the inflammation affected glucose consumption in the brain. The team also used virtual reality tests to record the participants’ spatial aptitude.
“We have known for some time that severe infections can lead to long-term cognitive impairment in the elderly. Infections are also a common trigger for acute decline in function in patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease,” Doctor Neil Harrison, a Wellcome Trust Intermediate Clinical Fellow at BSMS who led the study, said in the news release. “This study suggests that catching a cold or the flu, which leads to inflammation in the brain, could impair our memory.”
This type of inflammation is unlikely to cause lasting effects in young and healthy individuals, but the study findings could be significant to the elderly. The team plans to see how inflammation is related to dementia in the future.
“Our findings suggest that the brain’s memory circuits are particularly sensitive to inflammation and help clarify the association between inflammation and decline in dementia,” Dr Harrison said. “If we can control levels of inflammation, we may be able to reduce the rate of decline in patients’ cognition.”
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