Archive for Scientific Journal Article

New Imaging Technique Could Help with Future Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

tau imaging in Alzheimer's diseaseGlobally, 47.5 million people are affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by the build-up of the proteins beta-amyloid and tau in the brain. Beta-amyloid plaque has been studied with the use of the positron emission tomography (PET) scan, while few methods have existed for scientists to study the build-up of tau protein. A recently published study in the Science Translational Medicine announced that new tau imaging agents will help scientists further study tau’s role in Alzheimer’s.

In a cognitively healthy individual, tau transports nutrients and energy along nerve fibers in the brain. When tau builds up, it breaks down into distorted strands that are no longer able to transport nutrients effectively. These twisted strands are known as neurofibrillary tangles, and these tangles have been closely linked with the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers from the Washington University in St. Louis tested the cognitive performance of 46 older adults and found that 36 were cognitively normal while ten had mild Alzheimer’s disease. They performed PET scans using the new tau imaging agents and found that cognitively normal participants had very few tau tangles, while the Alzheimer’s group had more tau tangles in the temporal lobe and cerebral cortex.

The research team also took cerebrospinal fluid measures of tau and found that these measures correlated more closely with tau deposition in the temporal lobe. Tau deposition in this area has been more closely linked to the status of dementia and is a better predictor of cognitive performance than beta-amyloid. The temporal lobe of the brain is heavily involved in sensory processing, visual memories, language comprehension and emotional understanding.

Overall, the study found that tau imaging predicts the status of Alzheimer’s disease more accurately than beta-amyloid imaging does. Previous studies have investigated the whole progression of Alzheimer’s disease in living participants using tau imaging. Beta-amyloid imaging, on the other hand, more accurately predicts the early disease state of Alzheimer’s and is a better diagnosis tool. The tau imaging tool, however, is still in the testing phase.

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The Link Between Cognitive Health and Longevity

Researchers at the Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI) in San Diego, California, released a long-term study on the link between cognitive health and protection from chronic diseases. Originally dubbed the “Healthy Elderly” study, it has since come to be known as the “Wellderly” study.

The Wellderly study, published in the journal Cell, followed 1400 individuals between the ages of 80 and 105. All participants do not have a history of, nor do they currently suffer from any chronic diseases.

This study is unique because the research team is not simply studying the genetics behind longevity but rather the ‘healthy aging phenotype’, which is defined as the genetics of disease-free aging in humans without medical interventions. This study is also the first-of-its-kind to use genetic sequencing to focus on health and underlying genetic mechanisms on a large-scale as opposed to looking only at the causes of specific diseases.

At first, the research team was unable to find genetic variants previously linked with longevity and found no differences in the group’s genetic risk for cancer, stroke and type 2 diabetes. They did, however, find that the brains of Wellderly participants are more protected against cognitive decline due to genetic variants that help preserve brain health. Specifically, some participants had an extremely rare group of variants of the gene COL25A1, which codes for a protein that is known to build-up and cause amyloid plaque in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. This means that the group has a significantly lower genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

They also found that the group had a slightly lower genetic risk for heart disease compared to controls. Although the research team has not found one single variant to explain the healthy lifespan and absence of chronic diseases in Wellderly participants, they did find several genetic variants that were disproportionately represented in the group, which gives other scientists fuel for more research.

Ultimately, the findings in this study reveal that healthy aging is associated with a disease-protective profile. And as the research team notes, age-associated chronic diseases account for 90% of deaths in industrialized nations. By helping to prevent these diseases, society can reduce health care costs, lower the number of people suffering with disabilities in old age and promote independence and healthspan.

The Scripps Translational Science Institute is a site sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and led by Scripps Health in collaboration with The Scripps Research Institute. For more information on the Wellderly study, watch the video below!


Singing Proves Beneficial in Early Stages of Dementia

senior singing

Many experience that a familiar tune can jog an old memory, which is why music is often used as a type of therapy for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. A recent study by the University of Helsinki in Finland looked more in-depth at the benefits of music and found that singing – as opposed to simply listening to music – can boost the brain function of individuals in the early stages of dementia.

The study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, split 89 people with mild to moderate dementia and their caregivers into three separate groups: one group underwent a music intervention program involving singing, another group underwent an intervention involving listening to familiar songs, and the last group received only standard care with their caregiver and no music intervention. All three of the programs ran for ten weeks. To see who benefited the most from each type of intervention, the researchers evaluated the cause of dementia, the impact of the dementia’s severity, the individual’s age, care situation and previous musical hobbies.

They found that singing was the most beneficial for working memory, which is used to retain new information, executive function, which includes reasoning and judgment, and orientation. They also found that it worked best for individuals with mild dementia who were eighty years old or younger. Listening to familiar songs was only associated with cognitive benefits in individuals with advanced dementia, while both singing and listening to music together were the most effective at alleviating depression in participants with mild dementia.

Interestingly, the participants’ previous musical hobbies had no effect on how well the music intervention programs worked, so people from a variety of musical backgrounds could benefit from the power of music, making it widely applicable. The research team hopes that these results will support the notion that musical activities can be easily used in Alzheimer’s and dementia care as well as memory care facilities. Singing has proven to be a very engaging way for individuals in the early stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia to maintain their memory and other important cognitive functions.

Along with exercise, a balanced diet, and social activities, singing can be a fun way to boost your mood and strengthen your memory. Whether you are in the shower, in the car or at home, sing your favorite songs — involve kids or grandkids and make it an event! We recommend karaoke, which is a great way to exercise your vocal chords and your brain while having fun. Happy singing!


Ultrasound Treatment for Alzheimer’s Proves Effective in Mice

senior woman getting ultrasound treatmentResearchers from the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, have discovered a new method to treat symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease in mice using ultrasound technology. The six-week study found that treating the mice with ultrasound waves resulted in a reduction of amyloid-beta plaque along with an improvement in cognitive performance.

The study was completed using mice that were genetically bred to be predisposed to Alzheimer’s disease, meaning the mice exhibited some signs of the disease, such as the build-up of amyloid-beta plaque in the brain. Researchers put the mice to sleep and injected them with tiny gas bubbles to make the ultrasound waves more effective. They treated half of the mice by directing ultrasound waves at the brain; the untreated half was the control group. The cognitive abilities of the mice were assessed by observing their ability to navigate a maze along with behavioral and memory tests. Lastly, brains of the mice were examined.

The ultrasound treatment proved effective in reducing the amount of plaque in the brain; the area of the brain’s cortex region in the treated mice contained 56% less plaques than the control group. In addition, the ultrasound-treated mice performed better on the behavioral and memory tests.

Jürgen Götz, director of University of Queensland’s Clem Jones Centre for Aging Dementia Research and one of the researchers in this study, explained that the ultrasound treatment worked by temporarily opening the blood-brain barrier, which separates the brain tissue from the rest of the body. As the barrier opens, it allows for the protein albumin to enter into the brain, enhancing the effectiveness of microglial cells. Microglial cells work as the first line of immune defense by removing toxins from the brain such as amyloid-beta plaques. By boosting their effectiveness, microglia were able to clear out more of the plaque, resulting in better cognitive performance in the treated mice.

In previous studies, researchers have used ultrasound treatment in combination with drugs so that they may more easily enter the brain. By examining ultrasound waves alone, they were able to see how the simple process can positively impact the brain. As there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s, researchers continue to explore a variety of treatment options, and although it is early in testing, this is another potentially groundbreaking treatment method.

Ultrasound waves could be a new, therapeutic approach to treating symptoms of Alzheimer’s but can also cause brain tissue damage in high frequencies. For now, it has no clear advantage over pharmaceutical drugs that can clear out plaques without causing tissue damage, although it could be used to bolster the effects of approved drugs.

There are also effective, drug-free ways to prevent cognitive decline. If you are interested in this approach, read about our Cognitive Therapeutics Method™, a personalized, in-home activities program that targets memory, executive functioning, attention, visual-spatial perception and language through the use of fun and challenging interventions.


Stanford Researchers Find Blocking EP2 Receptor in Brain May Stave Off Alzheimer’s

Stanford’s latest research, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, shows success in staving off memory loss and other symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease in mice. Led by Stanford neuroscientist Katrin Andreasson, MD, the research team reactivated microglial cells by blocking a receptor on the cell called EP2, leading to improvements in mice predisposed to Alzheimer’s.Katrin Andreasson, MD, Stanford Research

Microglial cells are a type of brain cell that act as the first line of immune defense and clean out the protein Amyloid beta (A-beta). If A-beta is not cleared out, it can build up into amyloid plaques, which are found in individuals afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. During the aging process, microglial cells gradually stop working, leading to the A-beta’s build-up.

Through genetic manipulation, Dr. Andreasson and her team were able to block the activity of EP2, a receptor protein on the surface of the microglial cell, so that the microglia could return to normal functioning. Deactivating the EP2 receptor led to restoration of the microglial response to A-beta build-up; the cell resumed cleaning up the protein and suppressed toxic neuroinflammation. Blocking of the EP2 receptor also led to the promotion of IGF1, an insulin-like growth factor that is neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, and able to enhance plasticity in the brain, boosting cognitive functioning.

Simply put, the microglia returned to their prior level of functioning, clearing out A-beta, reducing inflammation in the brain and preventing build-up of amyloid plaques. This process prevented memory deficits and synaptic injuries, meaning that the neural, chemical and electrical signals between neurons were able to function normally. Researchers also found that the mice in the study improved on a multitude of memory tests, and their IQs increased.

Though targeting microglia may not be a cure-all, this discovery is a huge step in the right direction. Clearing out the build-up of A-beta and enhancing the immune defense of the brain are two critical components of preventing or delaying Alzheimer’s. We are looking forward to further breakthroughs from top research facilities, such as Stanford, in Alzheimer’s and dementia research.


Goldman, Bruce. “Blocking Receptor in Brain’s Immune Cells Counters Alzheimer’s in Mice, Study Finds.” News Center. Stanford Medicine, n.d. Web.

Goldman, Bruce. “Blocking a Receptor on Brain’s Immune Cells Counters Alzheimer’s in Mice.” Scope Blog RSS. Stanford Medicine, n.d. Web.

“Insulin-like Growth Factor 1.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web.

“Prostaglandin Signaling Suppresses Beneficial Microglial Function in Alzheimer’s Disease Models.” The Journal of Clinical Investigation. N.p., n.d. Web.

Balance Can be an Indicator of Risk for Stroke and Cognitive Decline

Researchers in Japan recently found a correlation between the ability to balance on one leg and the risk for stroke and cognitive decline in a study of over a thousand healthy adults. To assess the risks, the researchers looked for the presence of “microbleeds”, which are tiny lesions in the brain that can lead to stroke and cognitive decline over time.

BalancingThe study, published in the American Heart Association’s Journal Stroke, was conducted at the Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine. Researchers assessed the balance of 1,387 adults with an average age of 67 by recording their one-leg standing time. The participants were asked to stand up and raise one leg in front of them, bent at the knee, for as long as they could. They repeated this on both legs twice, totaling two attempts per leg. All attempts were timed but only the best time for each leg was recorded. Participants were then given an MRI brain scan to identify any microbleeds or other abnormalities in the brain.

Results showed a correlation between the length of time an individual could balance and the incidence of microbleeds and other brain tissue abnormalities. Among those that maintained their balance for less than 20 seconds, only 10% were free of microbleeds while 24% had two or more. This indicates that lack of balance is strongly correlated with the presence of microbleeds, which are in turn risk indicators for stroke and cognitive decline. Researchers also looked for “lacunar infarction lesions”, which are lesions associated with a type of stroke that is caused when an artery providing blood to the brain’s deepest regions is blocked. Less than 10% of people with poor balance were completely free of lacunar lesions, while 35% of those with poor balance had two or more. These results remained consistent even after researchers controlled for factors such as age, arterial health and blood pressure.

The research team concluded that poor balance on one leg could indicate future problems with brain health and risk for stroke, though further research is needed. To learn more about stroke and post-stroke care needs, read Chapter 15 of From Hospital to Home Care, one of eight informative books in the Home Care Assistance Healthy Longevity Book Series.


“Association of Postural Instability with Asymptomatic Cerebrovascular Damage and Cognitive Decline.” Http:// American Heart Association, n.d. Web.

Di Salvo, David. “Try This Simple Test Of Brain Health — You Can Do It Standing On One Leg.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, n.d. Web.