Is too much brain activity connected to Alzheimer's disease?

August 16, 2012

High baseline levels of neuronal activity in the best connected parts of the brain may play an important role in the development of Alzheimer's disease. This is the main conclusion of a new study appearing in PLoS Computational Biology from a group at VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

In recent times, it has become clear that patterns change at an early stage in Alzheimer's disease. Moreover, there is reason to believe that, instead of being the consequence of structural damage, they might be the cause: recently, a direct influence of excessive regional on Alzheimer pathology was found in animal experiments. By showing that highly connected 'hub' regions (which display most Alzheimer pathology) indeed possess the highest levels of activity, the present study offers support for the unconventional view that brain dynamics may play a causal role in Alzheimer. As first author, Willem de Haan, says, "this implies that the investigation of factors regulating neuronal activity may open up novel ways to detect, elucidate and counter the disease".

Using a realistic computational model of the human cortex, the authors simulated progressive synaptic damage to based on their level of activity, and subsequently investigated the effect on the remaining network. With this 'activity dependent degeneration' model, they could not only offer an explanation for the distribution pattern of Alzheimer pathology but also reproduce a range of phenomena encountered in actual neurophysiological data of Alzheimer patients: loss and slowing of neuronal activity, loss of communication between areas, and specific changes in brain network organization.

In upcoming projects the authors plan to verify the predictions from this study in patient data, but also to continue modeling studies. They conclude that: "the use of 'computational neurology' and network theory to unite experimental results and find plausible underlying principles in the growing bulk of human brain data seems inevitable".

Explore further: Researchers have identified a gene with a key role in neuronal survival

More information: de Haan W, Mott K, van Straaten ECW, Scheltens P, Stam CJ (2012) Activity Dependent Degeneration Explains Hub Vulnerability in Alzheimer's Disease. PLoS Comput Biol 8(8): e1002582. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002582

Related Stories

Researchers have identified a gene with a key role in neuronal survival

April 16, 2012
Spanish researchers at the Institute of Neurosciences at Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (INc-UAB) identified the fundamental role played by the Nurr1 gene in neuron survival associated with synaptic activity. The discovery, ...

Cells talk more in areas Alzheimer's hits first, boosting plaque component

May 2, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Higher levels of cell chatter boost amyloid beta in the brain regions that Alzheimer’s hits first, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis report. Amyloid beta is the ...

Mayo Clinic maps brain, finds Alzheimer's patients drive differently

July 16, 2012
Activity lingers longer in certain areas of the brain in those with Alzheimer's than it does in healthy people, Mayo Clinic researchers who created a map of the brain found. The results suggest varying brain activity may ...

Recommended for you

Canola oil linked to worsened memory and learning ability in Alzheimer's

December 7, 2017
Canola oil is one of the most widely consumed vegetable oils in the world, yet surprisingly little is known about its effects on health. Now, a new study published online December 7 in the journal Scientific Reports by researchers ...

Genetics study suggests that education reduces risk of Alzheimer's disease

December 7, 2017
The theory that education protects against Alzheimer's disease has been given further weight by new research from the University of Cambridge, funded by the European Union. The study is published today in the BMJ.

Healthy mitochondria could stop Alzheimer's

December 6, 2017
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia and neurodegeneration worldwide. A major hallmark of the disease is the accumulation of toxic plaques in the brain, formed by the abnormal aggregation of a protein called ...

Alzheimer's damage in mice reduced with compound that targets APOE gene

December 6, 2017
People who carry the APOE4 genetic variant face a substantial risk for developing Alzheimer's disease.

Lithium in water associated with slower rate of Alzheimer's disease deaths

December 5, 2017
Rates of diabetes and obesity, which are important risk factors for Alzheimer's disease, also decrease if there is a particular amount of lithium in the water, says the study, published recently in the Journal of Alzheimer's ...

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy may alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease

December 5, 2017
A new Tel Aviv University study reveals that hyperbaric oxygen treatments may ameliorate symptoms experienced by patients with Alzheimer's disease.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.