Yale study finds the key to Alzheimer’s risk

Credit: Artem Beliaikin / Unsplash

In a study from Yale University, scientists found the brain’s ‘wakeful rest’ network may be key to Alzheimer’s risk.

If you have ever let your mind wander, you have relied on the brain’s default mode network (DMN).

Scientifically, the DMN is a connection of brain regions that interact when a person is in a state of wakeful rest.

This network is important for using our short-term memory, posing the question:

Do changes in the DMN play a key role in the short-term memory loss seen in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (AD)? And is the DMN affected differently in women and men?

Previous research has shown that women clearly have an increased risk for AD compared to men. While there has been much research on AD, there are far fewer studies that take sex differences into account.

In the new study, the team specifically examines sex differences in DMN connectivity in healthy aging adults.

Previous studies have shown that brain connectivity within the DMN change in association with symptomatic and preclinical AD, but investigation of sex differences in such changes have been limited.

The team analyzed brain scans from patients who were in a state of wakeful rest. They found differences in how central communication points in the brain work for women and men.

For example, in women compared to men, the parts of the DMN responsible for memory recollection and retrieval, and spatial cognition were more likely to be connected to the overall DMN brain network.

These patterns of connectivity, correlated with brain structures responsible for short-term memory performance, resembled changes seen in preclinical AD.

In addition, greater sex differences were observed during aging. In their 30s and 40s, women relied more on connection to the part of the brain responsible for spatial and verbal memory.

In the decades surrounding menopause (40s and 50s), areas critical for memory retrieval showed higher connectivity to the overall DMN.

Men, on the other hand, showed a different pattern and their highest connectivity was not observed until their later years (60s–80s).

For men, the highest connection to the DMN was in a part of the brain responsible for habit forming and long-term memory.

The researchers believe their findings show that women rely on DMN connections more than men for memory and for a longer period of time.

A high level of connectivity may result in a network under stress and more vulnerability to disorders like AD. This “wear and tear” on the portions of the brain critical for memory could explain, in part, why women are at a higher risk for AD.

If you care about brain health, please read studies about how the Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and blueberry supplements may prevent cognitive decline.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about diabetes drug that may also help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, and this stuff in your nose may trigger Alzheimer’s disease.

The study was conducted by Carolyn Fredericks et al and published in Cerebral Cortex.

Copyright © 2023 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.