Alzheimer’s Disease Research in Cary, NC
A research paper about possible correlation between Alzheimer’s disease and sleeping patterns.
Alzheimer’s Disease and Sleep
Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that causes severe problems with memory, thinking and behavior. The effects of Alzheimer’s are dramatic enough to interfere with daily tasks such as walking and talking. The disease has two forms, early onset and late onset; in both forms the disorder has the constant accumulation of beta-amyloid in plaques and neurofibrillary tangles that disrupt communication among neurons. Lack of neuronal communication causes the cells to grow weak, and ultimately die. The abnormal process of cell death caused by Alzheimer’s disease models the process of a computer storing information. Consider clicking SAVE on a computer to store a paragraph in your computer’s long term memory. The brain absorbs information and stores it in the short term memory, then coverts short term to long term memory. This complex process depends on the ability of neurons to communicate with each other and is disrupted by Alzheimer’s disease.
The disease currently doesn’t have a cure, but researchers at “Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis” have revealed intriguing information about the possible correlation between Alzheimer’s disease and sleeping patterns. Prior to human trials, comprehensive research was completed on mice, showing the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles due to “bad” sleep.
The human clinical study recruited 145 volunteers. All of the recruited volunteers were forty-five to seventy-five years old and cognitively normal when admitted. The volunteers kept sleep diaries for two weeks and the researchers tracked “activity patterns during sleep of the participants” (National Sleep Foundation). After two weeks, the results were analyzed and the “worst sleepers” were “five times more likely” (National Sleep Foundation) to have preclinical Alzheimer’s disease. Although the current research seems revolutionary, scientists still have to differentiate whether “bad” sleep causes Alzheimer’s disease or if Alzheimer’s disease causes worsened sleep.
After the identification of Alzheimer’s disease by Dr. Alois Alzheimer in 1906, scientists have made great strides towards treating the illness. Following the recognition of the disease, pinpointing the cause of the disease (neurofibrillary tangles, and beta-amyloid plaques) laid the groundwork for future discovery. The tangles and the plaques are misfolded proteins that disrupt the communication between neurons. Imagine a document; you can read what is on the document, however once you crumble up the document there is still words, but it becomes illegible to read. The document is representative of protein, and if the buildup of this non- functioning misfolding happens repeatedly it becomes dangerous (tangles and plaques). Almost all of the neurodegenerative diseases have misfolded proteins as a pathological trademark. Continued research must be completed to eventually find a cure to Alzheimer’s disease.
The brain consists of three main parts: the cerebrum, the cerebellum, and the brain stem. The cerebrum also known as the “big brain” fills up most of your skull. This part of the brain is involved in remembering, problem solving, thinking, and feeling. The cerebellum also known as the “small brain” controls coordination and balance while the brain stem controls basic body functions such as breathing, swallowing, heart rate, and blood pressure. The origin of Alzheimer’s disease is found buried deep within the cerebrum in the limbic system. This system contains the thalamus, hypothalamus, hippocampus, and amygdala. In a small region of the hippocampal formation (deep within the brain), neurons begin to work less efficiently, because abnormal proteins begin to accumulate, forming neurofibrillary tangles. The damage then spreads to adjacent regions of the hippocampal area, where, in addition to tangles, plaques are formed. According to research being completed by the national sleep foundation, the formation of tangles and plaques could be a direct result of “bad” sleep. The importance of sleep is imperative for better physical health. Although research is still being completed on the correlation between Alzheimer’s disease and sleep, ongoing sleep deficiency is already linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. The onset of Alzheimer’s disease may be unstoppable, but making healthy choices in life will reduce your chances of contracting the disease.
Lack of sleep leads to crankiness, moodiness, and irritability for all humans, however, current research draws a relationship between “bad” sleep and the accumulation of mal-proteins causing Alzheimer’s disease. Sleep deprivation can impair several neuronal networks that control cognitive abilities, behavior, and memory. Read the following article, “Sleep Loss Precedes Alzheimer’s Symptoms”, and learn the conclusion made by researchers at “Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis” about the effect of sleep on the brain.
Ju, Yo El. “Sleep Loss Precedes Alzheimer’s Symptoms.” National Sleep Foundation, n.d. Web. 15 July 2017.
Goel N, Rao H, Durmer JS, Dinges DF. Neurocognitive consequences of sleep deprivation Seminars in neurology 29: 320-339 (2009)