Alzheimer's is a form of progressive dementia that impacts nearly one in every 10 seniors. Given its pervasiveness and its heartbreaking nature, scientists are working harder than ever to understand the disease—especially when it comes to causes and prevention. A new study out of Washington adds to this research by offering an early detection method and solidifying a potential Alzheimer's trigger.
Bioengineers and neuroscientists at the University of Washington have developed a test called SOBA, which looks for clumps of amyloid β-protein (Aβ). Each of these clumps constitutes an oligomer, or a molecule made up of repeating units that has long been believed to be associated with the onset of Alzheimer's. Under what's called the amyloid cascade hypothesis, scientists consider Aβ plaques to be responsible for triggering Alzheimer's pathology, including the neurofibrillary tangles and inflammation associated with the disease.
[...] The team's study comes just months after a shocking report claiming that the amyloid cascade hypothesis was the result of widespread research fraud. With an investigation into the alleged fraud still underway, some scientists are concerned that this could mean the end of the hypothesis as a whole. But the team at the University of Washington appears to believe the hypothesis holds strong, and the results of their study—published last month in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences—suggests the same.
Dylan Shea, Elizabeth Colasurdo, Alec Smith, et al., SOBA: Development and testing of a soluble oligomer binding assay for detection of amyloidogenic toxic oligomers, PNAS, 119, 2022. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2213157119
Turning off Waze or your favorite GPS app and using an old-fashioned map may be the best way to fight Alzheimer's disease, a new study reveals:
Researchers at McMaster University say orienteering, an outdoor sport that exercises the mind and body through navigation puzzles, can train the brain and stave off cognitive decline. The aim of orienteering is to navigate between checkpoints or controls marked on a special map. In competitive orienteering, the challenge is to complete the course in the quickest time.
For older adults, scientists say the sport — which sharpens navigational skills and memory — could become a useful intervention measure to fight off the slow decline related to dementia onset. They believe the physical and cognitive demands of orienteering can stimulate parts of the brain our ancient ancestors used for hunting and gathering.
The human brain evolved thousands of years ago to adapt to harsh environments by creating new neural pathways, the McMaster team explains. Those same brain functions are not always necessary today, however, thanks to GPS apps and food being readily available.
Unfortunately, the team says these skills fall into a "use it or lose it" situation.
[...] People who participated in orienteering displayed better spatial navigation and memory skills, suggesting that adding elements of wayfinding into their daily routines benefited them over their lifetime.
Emma E. Waddington, Jennifer J. Heisz. Orienteering experts report more proficient spatial processing and memory across adulthood, PLOS ONE (DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0280435)
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