Poor Sleep Linked to Alzheimer's Disease
Researchers discovered a causal link between poor sleep and the build-up of the beta-amyloid protein, which is believed to cause Alzheimer's.
Scientists are slowly piecing together the puzzle that is Alzheimer's disease, but an unprecedented wave of aging Baby Boomers may help to speed up efforts as this generation alone is estimated to make Alzheimer's one of America's fastest-growing and most debilitating public health concerns.
Researchers out of the University of California, Berkeley, have made progress in finding another piece to help fight against this debilitating and heartbreaking disease. They point to poor sleep as a possible indicator. Past studies have shown Alzheimer's patients have a build-up of a protein called beta-amyloid. Researchers suggest without a restorative slumber, the brain deposits this beta-amyloid protein, which they think may start the decline later on in life.
"This discovery offers hope. Sleep could be a novel therapeutic target for fighting back against memory impairment in older adults and even those with dementia."
Past research focused on animal testing for the protein, but this latest study recruited 26 human subjects between the ages of 65 and 81. The researchers used brain imaging and a heap of other diagnostic tools to examine how poor sleep led to an accumulation of these toxic chemicals in the brain.
The results show progress. Lead author of the study, Bryce Mander, said:
"The data we've collected are very suggestive that there's a causal link. If we intervene to improve sleep, perhaps we can break that causal chain."
"Sleep is helping wash away toxic proteins at night, preventing them from building up and from potentially destroying brain cells. It's providing a power cleanse for the brain."
However, researchers are stumped as to which issue begins the cycle — poor sleep or the protein.
"The more beta-amyloid you have in certain parts of your brain, the less deep sleep you get and, consequently, the worse your memory. Additionally, the less deep sleep you have, the less effective you are at clearing out this bad protein. It's a vicious cycle.”
As Ottavio Arancio, associate professor of pathology and cell biology at the Columbia University Medical Center, explains, less than 5 percent of Alzheimer’s disease cases are genetically transmitted. The disease is a consequence of aging, and doesn't target specific demographics.
Jonathan Zimmerman explains why teachers should invite, not censor, tough classroom debates.
- During times of war or national crisis in the U.S., school boards and officials are much more wary about allowing teachers and kids to say what they think.
- If our teachers avoid controversial questions in the classroom, kids won't get the experience they need to know how to engage with difficult questions and with criticism.
- Jonathan Zimmerman argues that controversial issues should be taught in schools as they naturally arise. Otherwise kids will learn from TV news what politics looks like – which is more often a rant than a healthy debate.
Controversial map names CEOs of 100 companies producing 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.
- Just 100 companies produce 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gases.
- This map lists their names and locations, and their CEOs.
- The climate crisis may be too complex for these 100 people to solve, but naming and shaming them is a good start.
It marks another milestone in SpaceX's long-standing effort to make spaceflight cheaper.
- SpaceX launched Falcon Heavy into space early Tuesday morning.
- A part of its nosecone – known as a fairing – descended back to Earth using special parachutes.
- A net-outfitted boat in the Atlantic Ocean successfully caught the reusable fairing, likely saving the company millions of dollars.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.