March 28th, 2011 at 12:11 pm
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ECL News Abstracts #1 | March 28, 2011

by ECL Staff

New research reveals insight into how short-term memory operates.

Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Rice University have discovered the human brain has three layers of memory. These layers – where the brain processes short-term memory – include a core, a surrounding layer, and a wide region. The core, labeled the “focus of attention,” has three responsibilities: it directs the mind’s attention to the correct information, it retrieves that information and, when necessary, updates that information. The surrounding layer can hold and process three additional pieces of active information, while the larger, wide region holds passive items that are on the memory’s back burner.

A new study reveals the onset of Alzheimer’s could take place as early as 20 years before the actual disease appears.

Recent data from a 6-year study conducted by the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network reveals the pathological onset of Alzheimer’s could begin as early as 20 years before the actual onset of the disease. The initial findings in the study show promise as they may – someday – allow doctors to develop preventative measures to treat patients who have the elevated-risk gene.  A follow-up to the study is currently underway and if the findings can be corroborated, then they could prove the existence of a “prodromal stage” (an early stage of the disease that takes place before the symptoms appear) in individuals who are genetically predisposed to developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Internal Medicine News

A study in the Journal of Neuroscience shows how the brain is wired and networked impacts the brain’s efficiency.

A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience sheds light on how the brain is wired actually impacts the brain’s overall efficiency. Says lead author Dr. Alex Fornito, “Ultimately, this research may help us uncover which specific genes are important in explaining differences in cognitive abilities, risk for mental illness and neurological diseases such as schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease, leading to new gene-based therapies for these disorders.”

Research into “brain plasticity” could create new avenues of research into the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

A study published in the journal Brain: A Journal of Neurology on March 23 reports that “brain plasticity” may play an important role in helping delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Brain plasticity refers to the brain’s ability to reorganize, adapt, and change itself. Principal researcher Dr. Sylvie Belleville writes, “It was long thought that brain plasticity declined with age, however, our study demonstrates that this is not the case, even in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.” The initial findings are promising as they could open doors to new research, including ways to maintain and improve brain plasticity, which could allow individuals with Alzheimer’s disease to take advantage of additional symptom-free years.

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