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Learning Slows Physical Progression of Alzheimer’s Disease

Posted Jan 24 2007 12:00am

Lifelong LearningAlzheimer’s disease affects more than 4.5 million adults in the US today. To help understand the progressive neurodegenerative disorder, special mice have been bred to develop the brain lesions associated with the disease. Using these mice, researchers at UC Irvine published some promising results in the Jan. 24 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. Here are some highlights from the coverage in Science Daily:

Learning appears to slow the development of two brain lesions that are the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, scientists at UC Irvine have discovered. The finding suggests that the elderly, by keeping their minds active, can help delay the onset of this degenerative disease.

This study with genetically modified mice is the first to show that short but repeated learning sessions can slow a process known for causing the protein beta amyloid to clump in the brain and form plaques, which disrupt communication between cells and lead to symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Learning also was found to slow the buildup of hyperphosphorylated-tau, a protein in the brain that can lead to the development of tangles, the other signature lesion of the disease. Scientists say these findings have large implications for the understanding and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, as it is already known that highly educated individuals are less likely to develop the disease than people with less education.

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