The Latest in Dementia Research

March 21, 2018

This week we take a brief look at the latest happenings in Alzheimer’s and dementia research – from potential breakthroughs on the cellular level, to news on possible new Alzheimer’s causal factors, to the ever-expanding benefits of exercise.

New Avenues for Brain Cell Repair: Because Alzheimer’s progresses at the cellular level, there’s a lot of research directed at the neuron damage and deterioration seen in dementia progression, to better identify paths to prevention. A new study conducted by the NIH looks at a form of Vitamin B3 known as NR, known in the brain to normalize levels of a substance known as NAD+ that is vital to cellular energy, stem cell self-renewal, and DNA repair. With regard to the hippocampus area of the brain, where the most damage and volume loss is seen in dementia, NR seemed to clean up existing DNA damage or prevent it from spreading. “We are encouraged by these findings that see an effect in this Alzheimer’s disease model,” says Senior Investigator Dr. Bohr. “We are looking forward to further testing of how NR or similar compounds might be pursued for their possible therapeutic benefit for people with dementia.” Learn more on the NIH website.

Sobering News about Alcohol: A new study from Lancet draws a solid line between chronic, heavy alcohol use and the onset of dementia. The study followed over one million adults in France diagnosed with dementia, with an eye to alcohol-related disorders (alcoholism, for example) as well as chronic diseases associated with alcohol abuse. Of 57,000 cases of early onset dementia analyzed in the study, 57% involved chronic drinking. The authors conclude that alcohol abuse stands as one of the most urgent and preventable precursors to dementia, and should be seen as vital to all routine neurological health screenings. Read more at Science Daily.

New Information on How Alzheimer’s Develops: Its been long understood that Alzheimer’s is caused by the build-up of two proteins in the brain – beta amyloid and tau. What has been more in dispute is how these proteins spread. Tau is particularly critical as it causes brain cells and their connections to die, preventing areas of the brain from communicating properly. New research indicates that, rather than appearing in a random pattern throughout the brain as disease spreads, tau replicates between connecting neurons. This is a huge breakthrough in terms of developing potential methods to stop the spread of tau and therefore slow or even arrest the progression of Alzheimer’s. Learn more at The Conversation website.

Exercise and the Aging Brain: Experts have been writing for years about the positive effects that exercise has on brain health. A new study takes a different approach to the topic, zeroing in on actual levels of seniors’ oxygen consumption during exercise, rather than merely tracking participants’ weekly exercise routines. Known as the VO2 max test, this particular measure allowed these researchers to analyze cardiovascular function as it related to white matter scans in 81 participants, 53 of which had already been diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). Those MCI participants who scored lower on VO2 max showed lesser amounts of healthy white matter in the areas of the brain governing memory and executive function. They also performed more poorly on memory and reasoning tests, suggesting a correlation between greater physical fitness and the presence of white matter – a vital substance that deteriorates in dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. Learn more at

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