Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Alzheimer's disease


In retired professional association football (soccer) players with a past history of repetitive head impacts, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a potential neurodegenerative cause of dementia and motor impairments. From 1980 to 2010, 14 retired footballers with dementia were followed up regularly until death. Their clinical data, playing career, and concussion history were prospectively collected. Next-of-kin provided consent for six to have post-mortem brain examination. Of the 14 male participants, 13 were professional and 1 was a committed amateur. All were skilled headers of the ball and had played football for an average of 26 years. Concussion rate was limited in six cases to one episode each during their careers. All cases developed progressive cognitive impairment with an average age at onset of 63.6 years and disease duration of 10 years. Neuropathological examination revealed septal abnormalities in all six post-mortem cases, supportive of a history of chronic repetitive head impacts. Four cases had pathologically confirmed CTE; concomitant pathologies included Alzheimer’s disease (N = 6), TDP-43 (N = 6), cerebral amyloid angiopathy (N = 5), hippocampal sclerosis (N = 2), corticobasal degeneration (N = 1), dementia with Lewy bodies (N = 1), and vascular pathology (N = 1); and all would have contributed synergistically to the clinical manifestations. The pathological diagnosis of CTE was established in four individuals according to the latest consensus diagnostic criteria. This finding is probably related to their past prolonged exposure to repetitive head impacts from head-to-player collisions and heading the ball thousands of time throughout their careers. Alzheimer’s disease and TDP-43 pathologies are common concomitant findings in CTE, both of which are increasingly considered as part of the CTE pathological entity in older individuals. Association football is the most popular sport in the world and the potential link between repetitive head impacts from playing football and CTE as indicated from our findings is of considerable public health interest. Clearly, a definitive link cannot be established in this clinico-pathological series, but our findings support the need for further systematic investigation, including large-scale case-control studies to identify at risk groups of footballers which will justify for the implementation of protective strategies.

Concepts: Lewy body, Autopsy, Parkinson's disease, Football, Dementia, Cerebral amyloid angiopathy, Alzheimer's disease, Pathology


The genetic predispositions which describe a diagnosis of familial Alzheimer’s disease can be considered as cornerstones of the amyloid cascade hypothesis. Essentially they place the expression and metabolism of the amyloid precursor protein as the main tenet of disease aetiology. However, we do not know the cause of Alzheimer’s disease and environmental factors may yet be shown to contribute towards its onset and progression. One such environmental factor is human exposure to aluminium and aluminium has been shown to be present in brain tissue in sporadic Alzheimer’s disease. We have made the first ever measurements of aluminium in brain tissue from 12 donors diagnosed with familial Alzheimer’s disease. The concentrations of aluminium were extremely high, for example, there were values in excess of 10μg/g tissue dry wt. in 5 of the 12 individuals. Overall, the concentrations were higher than all previous measurements of brain aluminium except cases of known aluminium-induced encephalopathy. We have supported our quantitative analyses using a novel method of aluminium-selective fluorescence microscopy to visualise aluminium in all lobes of every brain investigated. The unique quantitative data and the stunning images of aluminium in familial Alzheimer’s disease brain tissue raise the spectre of aluminium’s role in this devastating disease.

Concepts: Protein, Beta amyloid, Dementia, Amyloid precursor protein, Scientific method, Environment, Neuron, Alzheimer's disease


Periodontitis is common in the elderly and may become more common in Alzheimer’s disease because of a reduced ability to take care of oral hygiene as the disease progresses. Elevated antibodies to periodontal bacteria are associated with an increased systemic pro-inflammatory state. Elsewhere raised serum pro-inflammatory cytokines have been associated with an increased rate of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease. We hypothesized that periodontitis would be associated with increased dementia severity and a more rapid cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease. We aimed to determine if periodontitis in Alzheimer’s disease is associated with both increased dementia severity and cognitive decline, and an increased systemic pro inflammatory state. In a six month observational cohort study 60 community dwelling participants with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s Disease were cognitively assessed and a blood sample taken for systemic inflammatory markers. Dental health was assessed by a dental hygienist, blind to cognitive outcomes. All assessments were repeated at six months. The presence of periodontitis at baseline was not related to baseline cognitive state but was associated with a six fold increase in the rate of cognitive decline as assessed by the ADAS-cog over a six month follow up period. Periodontitis at baseline was associated with a relative increase in the pro-inflammatory state over the six month follow up period. Our data showed that periodontitis is associated with an increase in cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s Disease, independent to baseline cognitive state, which may be mediated through effects on systemic inflammation.

Concepts: Periodontitis, Gingiva, Dental hygienist, Alzheimer's disease, Cohort study, Cognition, Periodontal disease, Inflammation


We developed a new statistical framework to find genetic variants associated with extreme longevity. The method, informed GWAS (iGWAS), takes advantage of knowledge from large studies of age-related disease in order to narrow the search for SNPs associated with longevity. To gain support for our approach, we first show there is an overlap between loci involved in disease and loci associated with extreme longevity. These results indicate that several disease variants may be depleted in centenarians versus the general population. Next, we used iGWAS to harness information from 14 meta-analyses of disease and trait GWAS to identify longevity loci in two studies of long-lived humans. In a standard GWAS analysis, only one locus in these studies is significant (APOE/TOMM40) when controlling the false discovery rate (FDR) at 10%. With iGWAS, we identify eight genetic loci to associate significantly with exceptional human longevity at FDR < 10%. We followed up the eight lead SNPs in independent cohorts, and found replication evidence of four loci and suggestive evidence for one more with exceptional longevity. The loci that replicated (FDR < 5%) included APOE/TOMM40 (associated with Alzheimer's disease), CDKN2B/ANRIL (implicated in the regulation of cellular senescence), ABO (tags the O blood group), and SH2B3/ATXN2 (a signaling gene that extends lifespan in Drosophila and a gene involved in neurological disease). Our results implicate new loci in longevity and reveal a genetic overlap between longevity and age-related diseases and traits, including coronary artery disease and Alzheimer's disease. iGWAS provides a new analytical strategy for uncovering SNPs that influence extreme longevity, and can be applied more broadly to boost power in other studies of complex phenotypes.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Atherosclerosis, Gene, Cancer, Coronary artery disease, Senescence, Gerontology, Aging-associated diseases


Galactic Cosmic Radiation consisting of high-energy, high-charged (HZE) particles poses a significant threat to future astronauts in deep space. Aside from cancer, concerns have been raised about late degenerative risks, including effects on the brain. In this study we examined the effects of (56)Fe particle irradiation in an APP/PS1 mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). We demonstrated 6 months after exposure to 10 and 100 cGy (56)Fe radiation at 1 GeV/µ, that APP/PS1 mice show decreased cognitive abilities measured by contextual fear conditioning and novel object recognition tests. Furthermore, in male mice we saw acceleration of Aβ plaque pathology using Congo red and 6E10 staining, which was further confirmed by ELISA measures of Aβ isoforms. Increases were not due to higher levels of amyloid precursor protein (APP) or increased cleavage as measured by levels of the β C-terminal fragment of APP. Additionally, we saw no change in microglial activation levels judging by CD68 and Iba-1 immunoreactivities in and around Aβ plaques or insulin degrading enzyme, which has been shown to degrade Aβ. However, immunohistochemical analysis of ICAM-1 showed evidence of endothelial activation after 100 cGy irradiation in male mice, suggesting possible alterations in Aβ trafficking through the blood brain barrier as a possible cause of plaque increase. Overall, our results show for the first time that HZE particle radiation can increase Aβ plaque pathology in an APP/PS1 mouse model of AD.

Concepts: Cancer, Electron, Immunohistochemistry, Presenilin, Cognition, Psychology, Alzheimer's disease, Brain


Knowledge regarding whether benzodiazepines and similarly acting non-benzodiazepines (Z-drugs) are associated with an increased risk of pneumonia among older adults is lacking. We sought to investigate this association among community-dwelling adults with Alzheimer disease, a condition in which both sedative/hypnotic use and pneumonia are common.

Concepts: Zolpidem, Pneumonia, Zaleplon, Alzheimer's disease, Benzodiazepine


Curcumin is a constituent (up to ∼5%) of the traditional medicine known as turmeric. Interest in the therapeutic use of turmeric and the relative ease of isolation of curcuminoids has led to their extensive investigation. Curcumin has recently been classified as both a PAINS (pan-assay interference compounds) and an IMPS (invalid metabolic panaceas) candidate. The likely false activity of curcumin in vitro and in vivo has resulted in >120 clinical trials of curcuminoids against several diseases. No double-blinded, placebo controlled clinical trial of curcumin has been successful. This manuscript reviews the essential medicinal chemistry of curcumin and provides evidence that curcumin is an unstable, reactive, nonbioavailable compound and, therefore, a highly improbable lead. On the basis of this in-depth evaluation, potential new directions for research on curcuminoids are discussed.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Clinical research, Medicine, Epidemiology, The Canon of Medicine, Avicenna, Clinical trial, Pharmacology


Many choice situations require imagining potential outcomes, a capacity that was shown to involve memory brain regions such as the hippocampus. We reasoned that the quality of hippocampus-mediated simulation might therefore condition the subjective value assigned to imagined outcomes. We developed a novel paradigm to assess the impact of hippocampus structure and function on the propensity to favor imagined outcomes in the context of intertemporal choices. The ecological condition opposed immediate options presented as pictures (hence directly observable) to delayed options presented as texts (hence requiring mental stimulation). To avoid confounding simulation process with delay discounting, we compared this ecological condition to control conditions using the same temporal labels while keeping constant the presentation mode. Behavioral data showed that participants who imagined future options with greater details rated them as more likeable. Functional MRI data confirmed that hippocampus activity could account for subjects assigning higher values to simulated options. Structural MRI data suggested that grey matter density was a significant predictor of hippocampus activation, and therefore of the propensity to favor simulated options. Conversely, patients with hippocampus atrophy due to Alzheimer’s disease, but not patients with Fronto-Temporal Dementia, were less inclined to favor options that required mental simulation. We conclude that hippocampus-mediated simulation plays a critical role in providing the motivation to pursue goals that are not present to our senses.

Concepts: Operations research, Semantic memory, Futures contract, Dementia, Epistemology, Brain, Alzheimer's disease, Memory


A systematic review to examine the efficacy of computer-based cognitive interventions for cognitively healthy older adults was conducted. Studies were included if they met the following criteria: average sample age of at least 55 years at time of training; participants did not have Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment; and the study measured cognitive outcomes as a result of training. Theoretical articles, review articles, and book chapters that did not include original data were excluded. We identified 151 studies published between 1984 and 2011, of which 38 met inclusion criteria and were further classified into three groups by the type of computerized program used: classic cognitive training tasks, neuropsychological software, and video games. Reported pre-post training effect sizes for intervention groups ranged from 0.06 to 6.32 for classic cognitive training interventions, 0.19 to 7.14 for neuropsychological software interventions, and 0.09 to 1.70 for video game interventions. Most studies reported older adults did not need to be technologically savvy in order to successfully complete or benefit from training. Overall, findings are comparable or better than those from reviews of more traditional, paper-and-pencil cognitive training approaches suggesting that computerized training is an effective, less labor intensive alternative.

Concepts: Video game, Mild cognitive impairment, Efficacy, Cognitive neuroscience, Cognitive psychology, Effectiveness, Alzheimer's disease, Meta-analysis


Disturbances in the sleep-wake cycle and circadian rhythms are common symptoms of Alzheimer Disease (AD), and they have generally been considered as late consequences of the neurodegenerative processes. Recent evidence demonstrates that sleep-wake and circadian disruption often occur early in the course of the disease and may even precede the development of cognitive symptoms. Furthermore, the sleep-wake cycle appears to regulate levels of the pathogenic amyloid-beta peptide in the brain, and manipulating sleep can influence AD-related pathology in mouse models via multiple mechanisms. Finally, the circadian clock system, which controls the sleep-wake cycle and other diurnal oscillations in mice and humans, may also have a role in the neurodegenerative process. In this review, we examine the current literature related to the mechanisms by which sleep and circadian rhythms might impact AD pathogenesis, and we discuss potential therapeutic strategies targeting these systems for the prevention of AD.

Concepts: Diurnal cycle, Alzheimer's disease, Circadian rhythms, Chronotype, Diurnality, Sleep, Circadian rhythm