Scientists from the University of California Irvine found that brain inflammation may link Alzheimer’s disease risk with sleep disturbance, which may aid early detection and prevention efforts by identifying novel treatment targets at preclinical stages.
The research is published in the journal Sleep and was conducted by Bryce Mander et al.
Chronic activation of the brain’s immune cells, called “glial cells,” increases with age, elevating the production of beta-amyloid and tau proteins, the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.
Independently, sleep disturbance has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease pathology in the brain, and studies have also indicated an association between sleep disturbance and inflammation.
Brain inflammation, sleep disturbance, and disrupted brain waves have all been associated with Alzheimer’s disease, but the interactions among them have not been investigated until now.
In the study, the team examined whether inflammation had any effect on specific brain waves called fast sleep spindles, which have been shown to promote long-term memory retention.
They tested 58 cognitively healthy adults in their 50s and 60s. All had a parental history of Alzheimer’s or a genetic risk factor for it, but none of them had beta-amyloid plaques or neurofibrillary tau tangles.
Researchers found that activation of two types of glial cells—microglia and astrocytes, which trigger brain inflammation—was linked to disrupted expression of fast sleep spindles.
The fact that these links were identified in people without any accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques or neurofibrillary tangles indicates that sleep deficits and inflammation might be among the earliest warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
The findings showed that age-related increases in brain inflammation have a downstream effect on Alzheimer’s disease-related tau proteins and neuronal synaptic integrity.
This results in deficits in the brain’s capacity to generate fast sleep spindles, which contribute to age-related memory impairment in older adults.
The team says discovering these mechanisms is an important step in identifying at-risk individuals as early as possible and developing targeted interventions.
If you care about Alzheimer’s, please read studies about the root cause of the cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s and 5 steps to protect against Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
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