A small study based at the University of California suggests some people’s brains may have the ability to resist early damage arising in the initial stages of Alzheimer’s Disease.
In elderly subjects asked to memorise a series of pictures during brain scans, those participants with tangles of amyloid protein in their brains (thought to be an early indicator of Alzheimer’s Disease) displayed more brain activity. This is construed by the researchers as an indication that brains showing early damage have some ability to adapt to, and compensate for, deterioration in performance caused by the protein.
Earlier research points widely to lifelong cognitive stimulation tending to build up a “cognitive researve”, whereby brains may be better able to adapt to the damage of ageing. People with higher cognitive reserve are presumed to be better able to withstand brain pathology before showing marked clinical symptoms of dementia.
More research is needed to confirm these findings and explore the implications.
Mundasad, S. (2014). Brain may ‘compensate’ for Alzheimer’s damage. London: BBC Health News, September 14th 2014.
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Elman, JA. Oh, H. [and] Madison, CM. [et al] (2014). Neural compensation in older people with brain amyloid-[beta] deposition. Nature Neuroscience, September 14th 2014. [Epub ahead of print].