The brains of people who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease are better able to function when the artificial neurons in their brains are replaced with ones from an adult brain, according to a new study.
Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University at Buffalo looked at the brains of 496 people with Alzheimers disease and compared their performance with the brains from people who had not been diagnosed with the disease.
The brains of patients who had been diagnosed showed significantly better performance on tests of memory and attention, according the researchers.
The results were published in the journal Science.
“We have found a clear pattern here of improved brain function in the elderly with Alzheimer-type dementia,” said co-author Dr. Brian Laith, a professor of psychology at UC Berkeley.
“When these brains are reattached to a brain from an older adult, the brain’s electrical activity improves, and people who have had Alzheimer’s can learn, and work, and be better able, and feel better, and perform better,” Laith said.
The study was part of a larger research effort into how aging affects the brain.
In this case, it involved a group of adults who were diagnosed with dementia and had not yet had their brains reattained to adults.
“This is one of the most important studies of aging and the brain,” Luth said.
“It shows how aging effects how the brain functions, and what happens when the brain gets older.”
Researchers also found that the brains in the patients who were older, but not Alzheimer’s, had greater changes in electrical activity in the hippocampus, which is involved in learning and memory.
The hippocampus, like the hippocampus in the brain, is important in memory, learning, and social interactions, said lead author Dr. Christopher J. Pankratz, a neuroscientist at the University Hospitals of Pittsburgh and University at Albany.
“The hippocampus is a very important part of the brain and a very difficult area to lose,” he said.
“So these findings are very important because they suggest that we are losing our capacity to remember and to learn and to function as people age,” he added.
The researchers did not find any changes in the brains’ ability to make new connections between neurons in the older brains, the hippocampus or other brain areas.
The findings are a first step in identifying what changes are occurring in the aging brain.
They also suggest that these differences could be due to a variety of factors, including environmental factors, that are influencing the brain over time.
“Our study provides a glimpse into how the brains function in aging,” Panktats said.
While Alzheimer’s is an important public health concern, Pankiats said he hopes other researchers will follow up with similar studies to see how aging impacts the brains.
“What we are trying to do is figure out what the mechanisms are that underlie this,” he explained.
“There are many things that are going on in the body and the brains that we have to understand in order to understand Alzheimer’s.”