AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 1, 2017

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In Alzheimer's, Excess Tau Protein Damages Brain's GPS

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Finding may explain why many Alzheimer’s disease patients wander

Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) researchers have discovered that the spatial disorientation that leads to wandering in many Alzheimer’s disease patients is caused by the accumulation of tau protein in navigational nerve cells in the brain. The findings, in mice, could lead to early diagnostic tests for Alzheimer’s and highlight novel targets for treating this common and troubling symptom. An estimated three out of five people with Alzheimer’s disease wander and get lost, usually beginning in the early stages of the disease, leaving them vulnerable to injury. Researchers suspect that these problems originate in an area of the brain known as the entorhinal cortex (EC). The EC plays a key role in memory and navigation and is among the first brain structures affected by the buildup of neurofibrillary tangles that are largely composed of tau, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. “Until now, no one has been able to show how tau pathology might lead to navigational difficulties,” said co-study leader Karen E. Duff, PhD, professor of pathology and cell biology (in psychiatry and in the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain) at CUMC.

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Calendar/Courses

Microsurgery Course Zurich
March 29-April 1, 2017; Zurich, Switzerland

12th World Congress on Brain Injury
March 29-April 1, 2017; New Orleans

2017 National Neuroscience Review
March 31-April 1, 2017; National Harbor, Md.

Brain & Brain PET 2017
April 1-4, 2017; Berlin, Germany

Neurosurgical Society of America Annual Meeting 2017
April 2-5, 2017; Jacksonville, Fla.

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