Health27 Aug 2009 10:16 pm
Tragically, the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease often develop slowly, beginning with everyday forgetfulness that eventually snowballs into a comprehensively debilitating cognitive disorder. As a result, many Alzheimer’s experts believe that most sufferers of the condition don’t seek medical intervention for their symptoms until the disease has wrought significant and irreversible damage to the brain. However, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic believe that they have identified a rather unorthodox means of identifying high risk individuals earlier, when the symptoms of the disease can be better managed (there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s).
In a nutshell, researchers conducted studies on three sets of individuals: healthy individuals who had no indications of the disease; people at risk based on family history, and those who are most at-risk for the disease, i.e. with a family history and a version of a gene for a protein called apolipoprotein E4 (ApoE4) that has been linked to the condition.
The researchers, using MRI imaging studies, simply asked the test subjects whether they were able to recognize widely recognizable celebrities, such as Britney Spears and Bob Hope. The researchers found that the test subjects most at risk for developing Alzheimer’s consistently demonstrated a higher level of activity in the hippocampus, posterior cingulated and regions of the frontal cortex- all regions of the brain involved in memory retention. Fascinatingly, the control group demonstrated opposite results. Their brains became activated when they encountered unfamiliar names. After assessing these results, the researchers theorized that it was possible that the brains of people who were more at-risk for the disease were working harder to identify the well-known celebrities. Thus, Britney Spears could unwittingly end up being one of the first line of defense in war against Alzheimer’s disease.
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