Category: Neurodegenerative Diseases

New Imaging Technique Picks up Earliest Stages of Neurological Disorders

A new imaging technique has the potential to detect neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease at their earliest stages. 

The imaging methodology, called super-resolution, combines position emission tomography (PET) with an external motion tracking device to create highly detailed images of the brain. PET scanning, which is mostly used for oncology, where the activity of radioactive tracers introduced into the body is measured. Higher activity corresponds to greater uptake of that particular tracer.

In normal brain PET imaging, image quality is often limited by unwanted movements of the patient during scanning. In this study, researchers utilised super-resolution to make use of the normally unwanted head motion of subjects to enhance the resolution in brain PET.

Moving phantom and non-human primate experiments were performed on a PET scanner in conjunction with an external motion tracking device that continuously measured head movement with extremely high precision. Static reference PET acquisitions with no induced movement were also performed. After combining data from the imaging devices, researchers obtained PET images with higher resolution than the standard static reference scans.

Yanis Chemli, MSc, PhD candidate, Gordon Center for Medical Imaging, said: “This work shows that one can obtain PET images with a resolution that outperforms the scanner’s resolution by making use, counterintuitively perhaps, of usually undesired patient motion. Our technique not only compensates for the negative effects of head motion on PET image quality, but it also leverages the increased sampling information associated with imaging of moving targets to enhance the effective PET resolution.”

Though this super-resolution technique has only been tested in preclinical studies, researchers are preparing to try it with human subjects. Looking to the future, Chemli noted the important impact that super-resolution may have on brain disorders, specifically Alzheimer’s disease. “Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by the presence of tangles composed of tau protein. These tangles start accumulating very early on in Alzheimer’s disease–sometimes decades before symptoms–in very small regions of the brain. The better we can image these small structures in the brain, the earlier we may be able to diagnose and, perhaps in the future, treat Alzheimer’s disease,” he noted.

Source: Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging

Lifestyle Changes Shown to Reduce Risk of Dementia

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

After almost two decades, a new drug for Alzheimer’s disease has been approved in the US. However, some experts say it doesn’t really work — only treating amyloid plaques which are thought to cause the disease — and worry that it may cost a lot.

The amount of attention around this news reflects the importance of preventing dementia, with its devastating toll on families and patients. But millions of adults could lower their chances of needing such a drug by taking preventative measures.

That’s why a national panel of experts including the University of Michigan’s Deborah Levine, MD, MPH, recently published a guide for primary care providers on this topic as an official Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association.

People dread Alzheimer’s disease, she said. Helping people understand that they can prevent or slow future dementia by taking specific steps now could motivate them to increase their healthy behaviours for a positive effect.

The first step is to recognise that dementia risk is higher among people with seven major modifiable risk factors.

These are: depression, hypertension, physical inactivity, diabetes, obesity, hyperlipidaemia, poor diet, smoking, social isolation, excessive alcohol use, sleep disorders and hearing loss. Addressing each of these factors can, to varying extents, help reduce the risk of developing dementia, a fact backed by decades of research.

The second step is using medication, lifestyle change and other interventions to help patients reduce their dementia risk.

“Dementia is not inevitable,” said Dr Levine, a primary care provider at the University of Michigan Health, part of Michigan Medicine. “Evidence is growing that people can better maintain brain health and prevent dementia by following healthy behaviours and controlling vascular risk factors.”

These strategies can help preserve cognitive function and lower risk for heart attacks and strokes, said Dr Levine, who heads the Cognitive Health Services Research Program and sees patients at the Frankel Cardiovascular Center.

“We need to address the significant disparities that lead women, Black, Hispanic and less-educated Americans to have a much higher risk of dementia,” said Levine, a member of the U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

She added that it’s never too late in life to start working on cognitive risk factor control.

“We have no treatments that will halt dementia – so it’s important to protect your brain health.”

Source: University of Michigan

Molecule Found to Play a Key Role in Brain Rejuvenation

Image source: Pixabay

A new study shows that a molecule could play a key role in support cells in the brain, allowing them to repair and properly communicate.

Studies have shown that new brain cells continually formed in response to injury, physical exercise, and mental stimulation. Glial cells, and in particular oligodendrocyte progenitors, are highly responsive to external signals and injuries. They can detect changes in the nervous system and form new myelin, which forms a sheath around nerves, providing metabolic support and accurate transmission of electrical signals. However, less myelin is formed with age, and this progressive decline has been linked to the age-related cognitive and motor deficits observed in older people. Impaired myelin formation also has been reported in older individuals with neurodegenerative diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis or Alzheimer’s and identified as one of the causes of their progressive clinical deterioration.

A new study from the Neuroscience Initiative team at the Advanced Science Research Center at The Graduate Center, CUNY (CUNY ASRC) has identified a molecule called ten-eleven-translocation 1 (TET1) as a necessary component of myelin repair. shows that TET1 modifies the DNA in specific glial cells in adult brains so they can form new myelin in response to injury. The study was published in Nature Communications.

“We designed experiments to identify molecules that could affect brain rejuvenation,” said lead author Sarah Moyon, PhD, a research assistant professor with the CUNY ASRC Neuroscience Initiative. “We found that TET1 levels progressively decline in older mice, and with that, DNA can no longer be properly modified to guarantee the formation of functional myelin.”

The authors are currently exploring whether raising levels of TET1 in older mice could rejuvenate the oligodendroglial cells, restoring their regenerative functions.

Combining whole-genome sequencing bioinformatics, the authors showed that the DNA modifications induced by TET1 in young adult mice were essential to promote healthy communication among central nervous system cells and for ensuring proper function. The authors also showed that young adult mice with a genetic modification of TET1 in the myelin-forming glial cells could not produce functional myelin, and so behaved like older mice.

“This newly identified age-related decline in TET1 may account for the inability of older individuals to form new myelin,” said Patrizia Casaccia, founding director of the CUNY ASRC Neuroscience Initiative, a professor of Biology and Biochemistry at The Graduate Center, CUNY, and the study’s primary investigator. “I believe that studying the effect of aging in glial cells in normal conditions and in individuals with neurodegenerative diseases will ultimately help us design better therapeutic strategies to slow the progression of devastating diseases like multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s.”

The findings could also hold important implications for molecular rejuvenation of ageing brains in healthy individuals, the researchers noted. Future studies aimed at increasing TET1 levels in older mice are underway to define whether the molecule could restore new myelin formation and favour proper neuro-glial communication. The long-term goal of the team is to promote recovery of cognitive and motor functions in older people and in patients with neurodegenerative diseases.

Source: Advanced Science Research Center

A Neurologist Confronts His Alzheimer’s Disease

Image by valelopardo from Pixabay

Neurologist Daniel Gibbs, MD, PhD, related his experiences of having been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and taking part in clinical trials of possible treatments for it.

“I’m fascinated by this disease that, for my entire career as a scientist and a neurologist, I could only observe from the outside,” Dr Gibbs wrote in his new book, A Tattoo on my Brain: A Neurologist’s Personal Battle against Alzheimer’s Disease. “Now I’ve got a front-row seat — or rather, I’m in the ring with the tiger.”

Dr Gibbs stumbled upon his diagnosis accidentally, when he and his wife tested their DNA to learn about their ancestry that he discovered he had two copies of the APOE4 allele, the most common genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.

Because he had an early diagnosis, Dr Gibbs has volunteered to participate in several Alzheimer’s clinical trials in recent years, including one for aducanumab, the controversial Alzheimer’s treatment the FDA is expected to decide upon in June.

During a trial of aducanumab, he developed a serious amyloid-related imaging abnormality (ARIA) involving both brain oedema and intracerebral haemorrhage, which he recovered from. Dr Gibbs went on to co-author a case report about the clinical course and treatment of his complication. In the wake of much controversy, aducanumab has today received FDA approval.

MedPage Today interviewed Dr Gibbs on his experiences and perspectives since his Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Dr Gibbs said that “as a patient and as a neurologist” it is a coping mechanism which gives hime “a huge advantage” to be able to look at the disease through his two “masks”. “Looking at it from the neurologist scientist’s point of view is a lot less threatening and is intellectually very satisfying. I enjoy reading and writing about it,” he said.

Regarding his future, he said: “One of the messages I try to get across in the book is that you need to plan for the future while you are still cognitively intact, and make very clearly known what you want done when you’re unable to give instructions about your care. I’ve done that. My family knows, my doctor knows: I don’t want anything done if I can’t participate in making decisions.” 

Dr Gibbs said he was excited to volunteer for the aducanumab study partly because of the way aducanumab was discovered; a reverse-engineered antibody found in cognitively normal aged people. Another reason was the more aggressive nature of the trial. He explained the meaning of “tattoo on my brain” alluded to in the title of his book, an adverse effect of the experimental drug.

“For me, a ‘tattoo on my brain’ has two forms. In the ARIA — the amyloid-related imaging abnormality complication I had from aducanumab — there was both leakage of fluid causing swelling in my brain and leakage of blood, microhaemorrhages. Those went away, as did the swelling in my brain, but they left behind this haemosiderin, this iron-containing pigment which is not dissimilar to tattoo ink, if you will.

“I haven’t had a recent MRI scan, but at least the last one I looked at a year or two ago still showed those little dots of hemosiderin. In a literal sense, that is the tattoo on my brain. In the figurative sense, the tattoo is a symbol of a kind of coming out of the closet and showing something that you’re not ashamed of.” 

The book, he said, is about people with early disease and the children of people with Alzheimer’s disease because they’re at risk. The aim is to “loosen up the conversation” so that interventions such as lifestyle changes can take place.

He suspects that the first disease-modifying drugs will be effective in early stages, which are going to be really hard studies to do. Recruiting participants without cognitive impairment but the pathology of  of Alzheimer’s disease is extremely difficult.
Finally, he offered some advice on dealing with Alzheimer’s.

“What I would recommend is for everybody to start doing things that are good for them. A heart-healthy diet is good for you in so many ways. It’s hard to say that’s not a good idea, although we’re a country of hamburger-loving people. And exercise — I don’t know how you overcome that bar of convincing people if you want to be a healthy 70- or 80-year-old, you have to exercise and get a good diet. And good sleep.”

Source:MedPage Today

Alzheimer’s Disease Disrupts Blood Vessels in Vicious Circle

Researchers have discovered a new mechanism of Alzheimer’s disease, one that disrupts the blood vessels around the disease’s characteristic amyloid plaques and worsens the disease progression. 

Image source: Wikimedia

Presently, Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia worldwide. As economies develop and people live longer lives, its incidence is increasing dramatically as the population ages and yet, unfortunately, the origin of the disease is still unknown and there is no truly effective treatment.

The study was published in the international journal Nature Communications, and led by Dr Alberto Pascual’s laboratory, from the Neuronal Maintenance Mechanisms Group at the Biomedicine Institute of Seville (IBiS) and was chiefly carried out by María Isabel álvarez Vergara and Alicia E Rosales-Nieves.

Blood vessel formation disrupted

The study focuses on the dysfunction of a physiological process called angiogenesis, which is important during development to form the vessels of the brain, and in adulthood to repair any damage to pre-existing vessels. The researchers found that Alzheimer’s disease induces angiogenesis dysfunction, resulting in the loss of vessels instead of the formation of new ones and worsening the progression of the disease. Identification of the molecular pathways involved will enable new therapeutic strategies to alleviate the effects of this disease can be rationally designed. Their data also links familial (genetic) Alzheimer’s to problems in the formation of new blood vessels, which demonstrates the importance of the vascular component of the disease.

A vicious circle

A characteristic feature of Alzheimer’s patients is the accumulation of highly toxic substances in their brains, known as senile plaques. Normally, the brain is capable of cleaning out these toxic substances by carrying them away in the bloodstream. Therefore, the loss of the vessels due to plaques creates a vicious circle: having fewer vessels reduces the brain’s cleaning ability and so allowing more toxic substances to accumulate, which in turn continue to destroy the vessels and worsen the situation further. Additionally, since the human brain is a major consumer of the body’s oxygen and nutrients a local reduction in the supply of these substances through the blood represents an additional strain on it.

Source: News-Medical.Net

Journal information: Alvarez-Vergara, M.I., et al. (2021) Non-productive angiogenesis disassembles Aß plaque-associated blood vessels. Nature Communications.

Precise Ultrasound Heating of Neurons Could Treat Neurological Disorders

Image source: Fakurian Design on Unsplash

A multidisciplinary team at Washington University in St. Louis has developed a new brain stimulation technique using focused ultrasound that is able to turn specific types of neurons in the brain on and off and precisely control motor activity without surgical device implantation.

Being able to turn neurons on and off can treat certain neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy. Used for over six decades, deep brain stimulation techniques have had some treatment success in neurological disorders, but those require surgical device implantation. 

The team, led by Hong Chen, assistant professor of biomedical engineering in the McKelvey School of Engineering and of radiation oncology at the School of Medicine, is the first to provide direct evidence showing noninvasive activation of specific neuron types in mammalian brains by combining an ultrasound-induced heating effect and genetics, which they have named sonothermogenetics. It is also the first work to show that the ultrasound- genetics combination can robustly control behaviour by stimulating a specific target deep in the brain.

The results of the three years of research were published online in Brain Stimulation

“Our work provided evidence that sonothermogenetics evokes behavioural responses in freely moving mice while targeting a deep brain site,” Chen said. “Sonothermogenetics has the potential to transform our approaches for neuroscience research and uncover new methods to understand and treat human brain disorders.”

Chen and colleagues delivered a viral construct containing TRPV1 ion channels to genetically-selected neurons in a mouse model. Then, they delivered small pulses of heat generated by low-intensity focused ultrasound to the selected neurons in the brain via a wearable device. The heat, only a few degrees warmer than body temperature, activated the TRPV1 ion channel, which then acted as a switch to turn the neurons on or off.

“We can move the ultrasound device worn on the head of free-moving mice around to target different locations in the whole brain,” said Yaoheng Yang, first author of the paper and a graduate student in biomedical engineering. “Because it is noninvasive, this technique has the potential to be scaled up to large animals and potentially humans in the future.”

Building on prior research from his lab, professor of biomedical engineering Jianmin Cui and his team found for the first time that ion channel activity can be influenced by ultrasound alone, possibly leading to new and noninvasive ways to control the activity of specific cells. They discovered that focused ultrasound modulated the currents flowing through the ion channels on average by up to 23%, depending on channel and stimulus intensity. Following this work, researchers found close to 10 ion channels with this capability, but all of them are mechanosensitive, not thermosensitive.

The work also builds on the concept of optogenetics, the combination of the targeted expression of light-sensitive ion channels and the precise delivery of light to stimulate neurons deep in the brain. While optogenetics has increased discovery of new neural circuits, it has limited penetration depth due to light scattering, requiring surgical implantation of optical fibres to reach deeper into the brain.

Sonothermogenetics has the promise to target any location in the mouse brain with millimetre-scale resolution without causing any damage to the brain, Chen said. She and her team are further refining the technique and validating their work.

Source: Sci Tech Daily

Journal information: Yaoheng Yang et al, Sonothermogenetics for noninvasive and cell-type specific deep brain neuromodulation, Brain Stimulation (2021). DOI: 10.1016/j.brs.2021.04.021

Phase 1 Clinical Trial of a Gene Therapy for Alzheimer’s

Image source: Pixabay/CC0

Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine have received a grant to conduct a first-in-human Phase 1 clinical trial of a gene therapy for treating Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), a condition often preceding dementia.

Gene therapy is an experimental technique that uses genes or gene products for the treatment or prevention of diseases by altering the DNA of living cells. Viral vectors are commonly used to insert the DNA changes into the target cells’ nuclei, but non-viral vectors also exist though they are generally less efficient.

The clinical trial, developed by principal investigator Mark Tuszynski, MD, PhD, professor of neuroscience and director of the Translational Neuroscience Institute at UC San Diego School of Medicine, delivers the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) gene into the brains of qualifying trial participants where it is hoped it will stimulate BDNF production in cells.

BDNF belongs to a family of growth factors (proteins) found in the brain and central nervous system that support existing neurons and promote growth and differentiation of new neurons and synapses. BDNF is particularly important in brain regions susceptible to degeneration in AD.

“We found in earlier studies that delivering BDNF to the part of the brain that is affected earliest in Alzheimer’s disease — the entorhinal cortex and hippocampus — was able to reverse the loss of connections and to protect from ongoing cell degeneration,” said Tuszynski. “These benefits were observed in aged rats, aged monkeys and amyloid mice.”

The three-year-long trial seeks to recruit 12 participants with either diagnosed AD or MCI to receive AAV2-BDNF treatment, with another 12 persons serving as a control group over that period.

This will be the first safety and efficacy assessment of AAV2-BDNF in humans. A previous gene therapy trial from 2001 to 2012 using AAV2 and a different protein called nerve growth factor (NGF) found increased growth, axonal sprouting and activation of functional markers in the brains of participants.

“The BDNF gene therapy trial in AD represents an advance over the earlier NGF trial,” said Tuszynski. “BDNF is a more potent growth factor than NGF for neural circuits that degenerate in AD. In addition, new methods for delivering BDNF will more effectively deliver and distribute it into the entorhinal cortex and hippocampus.”

Source: UC San Diego

Nasal Spray Maximises Parkinson’s Drug Delivery

Image source: Pixabay

Scientists at the University of York have been developing a nasal spray treatment for patients with Parkinson’s disease, which helps to maximise delivery of the drug in high enough dosages to be effective.

To do so, the researchers have developed an innovative new gel that can adhere to tissue inside the nose alongside the drug levodopa, helping deliver treatment directly to the brain.

Levodopa is a dopamine precursor which is converted to dopamine in the brain, where it makes up for the deficit of dopamine-producing cells in Parkinson’s patients. Generally administered when other anti-Parkinson’s medication is no longer useful, levodopa helps treat the symptoms of the disease, particularly bradykinesia, which is the impairment of voluntary motor control and slow movements or freezing. However, in the long term levodopa becomes less effective, requiring increased doses for the same effect.

Higher dosages neededProfessor David Smith, from the University of York’s Department of Chemistry, explained: “The current drug used for Parkinson’s Disease is effective to a point, but after a long period of use the body starts to break down the drug before it gets to the brain where it is most needed.

“This means increased dosage is necessary, and in later stages, sometimes, instead of tablets, the drug has to be injected.  Investigations into nasal sprays have long been of interest as a more effective delivery because of its direct route to the brain via the nerves that service the nose, but the challenge here is to find a way of making it adhere to the nasal tissue long enough to release a good dosage of the drug.”

The researchers created a levodopa-loaded gel that could flow into the nose in a liquid form and then rapidly change to a thin layer of gel inside the nose.  The method was tested in animal models by a team at King’s College London, where levodopa was successfully released from the gel into the blood and directly to the brain.

Improved uptake

Professor Smith said: “The results indicated that the gel gave the drug better adhesion inside the nose, which allowed for better levels of uptake into both the blood and brain.”

The team is now working on incorporating these materials in nasal spray devices, to progress clinical trials in humans.  The treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s may also benefit from this approach.

Khuloud Al-Jamal, Professor of Drug Delivery and Nanomedicine from King’s College London, said: “Not only did the gel perform better than a simple solution, but the brain uptake was better than that achieved using intravenous injection of the drug. This suggests that nasal delivery of Parkinson’s drugs using this type of gel may have clinical relevance.” 

Source: University of York

Journal information: Wang, J. T-W., et al. (2021) Enhanced Delivery of Neuroactive Drugs via Nasal Delivery with a Self-Healing Supramolecular Gel. Advanced Science.

High Blood Pressure Dementia Risk Found for Women

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Differences in blood pressure’s influence on dementia risk in men and women may provide clues to help slow the rapid progress of the disease, according to new research.

In a study involving half a million people, researchers found that although the link between several mid-life cardiovascular risk factors and dementia was similar for both sexes, for blood pressure it was not. Low and high blood pressure were both shown to be associated with a greater risk of dementia in men, but for women the risk of dementia increased as blood pressure went up.

Lead author Jessica Gong said that while more research was needed to verify these findings, they may point to better ways of managing risk.

“Our results suggest a more tailored approach to treating high blood pressure could be more effective at preventing future cases of dementia,” she said.

Dementia is fast becoming a global epidemic, currently affecting an estimated 50 million people worldwide. This is projected to triple by 2050 – mainly driven by aging populations. Rates of dementia and associated deaths are both known to be higher in women than men.

In 2016 it overtook heart disease as the leading cause of death in Australian women and it is the second leading cause of death for all Australians.

With no treatment breakthroughs of any significance, the focus has therefore been on cutting the risk of developing the disease. Cardiovascular risk factors are increasingly recognised as contributors to different types of dementia.

To explore differences in major cardiovascular risk factors for dementia between the sexes, George Institute researchers accessed data from the UK Biobank, a large-scale biomedical database that recruited 502 489 dementia-free Britons 40-69 years old between 2006 and 2010.

They found that, to a similar degree in women and men, smoking , diabetes, high body fat levels, prior stroke history, and low socio-economic status were all linked to a greater risk of dementia.

But when it came to blood pressure, the relationship with dementia risk between the sexes was different. Although the reason for this wasn’t clear, the authors proposed some possible explanations.

“Biological differences between women and men may account for the sex differences we saw in the relationship between blood pressure and the risk of dementia,” said Ms Gong.

“But there may also be differences in medical treatment for hypertension. For example, women are less likely to take medication as prescribed by their healthcare provider than men and may be taking more medications and experiencing more side effects.”

While there are no effective treatments for dementia, trying to reduce the burden of the disease by encouraging healthier lifestyles is the priority, and the strongest evidence points to blood pressure management.

“Our study suggests that a more individualised approach to treating blood pressure in men compared to women may result in even greater protection against the development of dementia,” said study co-author Professor Mark Woodward.

“It also shows the importance of ensuring sufficient numbers of women and men are recruited into studies and that the data for women and men should be analysed separately,” he added.

Source: George Institute

A Mediterranean Diet Keeps Dementia at Bay

A dish full of vegetables which could be in a Mediterranean diet.

Researchers have reported that a Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk of developing dementia and cognitive loss, helping preserve memory functions as people age.

Specifically, the diet appears to lower the level of amyloid and tau proteins that are linked with dementia. People following the Mediterranean diet, already noted for its numerous health benefits, scored better on memory tests than those who were not following the diet.

The first of these proteins, amyloid protein, forms plaques in the brain, whereas the second, tau protein, forms tangles. Both are present in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s, though they are not uncommon in the brains of healthy older people, too.

“These results add to the body of evidence that shows what you eat may influence your memory skills later on,” said study author Tommaso Ballarini, PhD, of the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Bonn, Germany. He adds:

Studies have linked good health with the foods that people living in Greece, Spain, and Italy ate before the 1960s. This diet consists primarily of vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grain foods, seafood, extra virgin olive oil, and wine in moderation. Poultry, eggs and dairy products are present to a limited extent, while red meat, added sugar, refined grains and oils, and processed foods are typically lacking in a Mediterranean diet.

Kristin Kirkpatrick, a dietitian at Cleveland Clinic told Medical News Today that the contents of a Mediterranean diet offers beneficial “omega-3 fatty acids, polyphenols, specific minerals, fiber, and protein” that “may support the brain’s health and protection throughout the years.”

However, Kirkpatrick cautioned that, “A diet, even one with strong clinical data on its benefit, is only as healthy as the individuals who choose its structure.”

Sensible portion sizes are important, she noted and warned against the “consumption of processed foods that are marketed as heart-healthy or contain the components seen in a traditional Mediterranean approach.”

The investigators recruited 512 individuals from the German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases’ Longitudinal Cognitive Impairment and Dementia StudyTrusted Source. Participant  assessments showed that 343 were at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease while the other 169 people were “cognitively normal.”

Participants filled in questionnaires regarding the food they ate the previous month and the investigators asked them to record their intake of 148 specific food items. Participants were scored on their diet’s similarity to a Mediterranean diet, the most similar receiving a 9 and the least similar a 1. Since this was a self-reported study on eating habits, errors or misrepresentations are possible.

Individuals also took cognitive tests designed to detect the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. The tests assessed five areas: memory, working memory, language, executive functions, and visuospatial abilities. MRI brain scans determined each individual’s brain volume.

Finally, the researchers analyzed spinal fluid from a subsample of 226 participants who gave their consent, assessing the presence and amounts of the two biomarker proteins: amyloid and tau.

After adjusting for sex, age, and education, the scientists identified several clear links between better cognitive health and a Mediterranean diet.

The investigators  reported that:

  • Every dietary score point lower than 9 was linked to almost 1 year of the brain ageing that occurs in Alzheimer’s disease progression.
  • Participants who most closely followed the Mediterranean diet had fewer amyloid and tau protein biomarkers in their spinal fluid than those who had lower dietary scores.
  • People on the Mediterranean diet scored better on memory tests than people who were not.

Dr Ballarani concluded that, “More research is needed to show the mechanism by which a Mediterranean diet protects the brain from protein buildup and loss of brain function, but findings suggest that people may reduce their risk for developing Alzheimer’s by incorporating more elements of the Mediterranean diet into their daily diets.”

Source: Medical News Today