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Journal: Neurobiology of aging


Common mechanisms in aging and obesity are hypothesized to increase susceptibility to neurodegeneration, however, direct evidence in support of this hypothesis is lacking. We therefore performed a cross-sectional analysis of magnetic resonance image-based brain structure on a population-based cohort of healthy adults. Study participants were originally part of the Cambridge Centre for Ageing and Neuroscience (Cam-CAN) and included 527 individuals aged 20-87 years. Cortical reconstruction techniques were used to generate measures of whole-brain cerebral white-matter volume, cortical thickness, and surface area. Results indicated that cerebral white-matter volume in overweight and obese individuals was associated with a greater degree of atrophy, with maximal effects in middle-age corresponding to an estimated increase of brain age of 10 years. There were no similar body mass index-related changes in cortical parameters. This study suggests that at a population level, obesity may increase the risk of neurodegeneration.

Concepts: Old age, Ageing


Neurodegenerative diseases are a very diverse group of disorders but they share some common mechanisms such as abnormally misfolded proteins with prion-like propagation and aggregation. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is the most prevalent prion disease in humans. In the sporadic form of CJD the only known risk factor is the codon 129 polymorphism. Recent reports suggested that α-synuclein in multiple system atrophy (MSA) has similar pathogenic mechanisms as the prion protein. Here we present 1 Italian family with MSA and prion disease. Also, cases of concurrent MSA and prion pathology in the same individual or family suggest the possibility of molecular interaction between prion protein and α-synuclein in the process of protein accumulation and neurodegeneration, warranting further investigations. We assessed the PRNP gene by whole-exome sequencing in 264 pathologically confirmed MSA cases and 462 healthy controls to determine whether the 2 diseases share similar risk factors. We then analyzed codon 129 polymorphism by Sanger sequencing and compared with previously published results in sporadic CJD. Homozygosity at codon 129 was present in 50% of pathologically confirmed MSA cases and in 58% of normal controls (odds ratio, 0.7 (95% confidence interval of 0.5-0.9)) compared with 88.2% in sporadic CJD. Our data show that the homozygous state of position 129 in the PRNP is not a risk factor for MSA. No other variants in the PRNP gene were associated with increased risk for MSA.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Epidemiology, Molecular biology, Prion, Neurodegenerative disorders, Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, Bovine spongiform encephalopathy


Shift work has been proposed to promote cognitive disturbances in humans; however, conflicting evidence is also present. By using data from 7143 middle-aged and elderly humans (45-75 years) who participated in the Swedish EpiHealth cohort study, the present analysis sought to investigate whether self-reported shift work history would be associated with performance on the trail making test (TMT). The TMT has been proposed to be a useful neuropsychological tool to evaluate humans' executive cognitive function, which is known to decrease with age. After adjustment for potential confounders (e.g., age, education, and sleep duration), it was observed that current and recent former shift workers (worked shifts during the past 5 years) performed worse on the TMT than nonshift workers. In contrast, performance on the TMT did not differ between past shift workers (off from shift work for more than 5 years) and nonshift workers. Collectively, our results indicate that shift work history is linked to poorer performance on the TMT in a cohort of middle-aged and elderly humans.

Concepts: Present, Time, Psychology, Neurocognitive, Cognition, Knowledge, Past, Shift work


Risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease is increased by older age, genetic factors, and several medical risk factors. Studies have also suggested that dietary and lifestyle factors may influence risk, raising the possibility that preventive strategies may be effective. This body of research is incomplete. However, because the most scientifically supported lifestyle factors for Alzheimer’s disease are known factors for cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, it is reasonable to provide preliminary guidance to help individuals who wish to reduce their risk. At the International Conference on Nutrition and the Brain, Washington, DC, July 19-20, 2013, speakers were asked to comment on possible guidelines for Alzheimer’s disease prevention, with an aim of developing a set of practical, albeit preliminary, steps to be recommended to members of the public. From this discussion, 7 guidelines emerged related to healthful diet and exercise habits.

Concepts: Medicine, Public health, Genetics, Epidemiology, Nutrition, Death, Obesity, Preventive medicine


This study investigated the contribution of the new G protein-coupled estrogen receptor 1 (GPER1) in neuroprotection by 17β-estradiol in the 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) mouse model of Parkinson’s disease. In intact mice, administration of GPER1 agonist G1 reproduced the effect of 17β-estradiol in increasing striatal dopamine metabolite concentrations as well as the turnover of dopamine. GPER1 antagonist G15 blocked the effect of G1 on homovanillic acid/dopamine ratio and partially for 17β-estradiol. MPTP mice treated with G15 were more susceptible to MPTP toxicity with a greater decrease in striatal dopamine concentration and dopamine transporter specific binding. In MPTP mice, dopamine concentrations as well as dopamine and vesicular monoamine transporter 2 specific binding showed that G1 treatment was as potent as 17β-estradiol in protecting striatum and substantia nigra. G15 antagonized completely the neuroprotective effects of G1 in the striatum and substantia nigra as well as protection by 17β-estradiol in the striatum but partially in the substantia nigra. This study showed an important role of GPER1 in neuroprotection and that G1 is as potent as 17β-estradiol in mediating beneficial effects.

Concepts: Parkinson's disease, Basal ganglia, Substantia nigra, Serotonin, Striatum, Dopamine, Alpha-synuclein, Dopamine transporter


The pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease includes accumulation of toxic amyloid beta (Aβ) peptides. A recently developed cell-permeable peptide, termed Tat-Pro, disrupts the complex between synapse-associated protein 97 (SAP97) and the α-secretase a disintegrin and metalloproteinase domain-containing protein 10 (ADAM10), thereby leading to an alteration of the trafficking of the enzyme, which is important for nonamyloidogenic processing of amyloid precursor protein (APP). We report that Tat-Pro treatment, as well as the treatment with exogenous Aβ, deregulates Ca(2+) homeostasis specifically in astrocytes through increased expression of key components of Ca(2+) signaling, metabotropic glutamate receptor-5 and inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate receptor-1. This is accompanied by potentiation of (S)-3,5-dihydroxyphenylglycine-induced Ca(2+) transients. Calcineurin inhibition reverts all these effects. Furthermore, our data demonstrate that astrocytes express all the components for the amyloidogenic and nonamyloidogenic processing of APP including APP itself, beta-site APP-cleaving enzyme 1 (BACE1), ADAM10, γ-secretase, and SAP97. Indeed, treatment with Tat-Pro for 48 hours significantly increased the amount of Aβ(1-42) in the medium of cultured astrocytes. Taken together, our results suggest that astroglia might be active players in Aβ production and indicate that the calcium hypothesis of Alzheimer’s disease may recognize glial cells as important intermediates.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Protein, Neuron, Peptide, Amyloid, Beta amyloid, Amyloid precursor protein, Presenilin


In this review, we explore the association among physical activity, cardiorespiratory fitness, and exercise on gray matter volume in older adults. We conclude that higher cardiorespiratory fitness levels are routinely associated with greater gray matter volume in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus and less consistently in other regions. We also conclude that physical activity is associated with greater gray matter volume in the same regions that are associated with cardiorespiratory fitness including the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. Some heterogeneity in the literature may be explained by effect moderation by age, stress, or other factors. Finally, we report promising results from randomized exercise interventions that suggest that the volume of the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex remain pliable and responsive to moderate intensity exercise for 6 months-1 year. Physical activity appears to be a propitious method for influencing gray matter volume in late adulthood, but additional well-controlled studies are necessary to inform public policies about the potential protective or therapeutic effects of exercise on brain volume.

Concepts: Brain, Exercise, Cerebrum, Limbic system, Frontal lobe, Premotor cortex, Physical fitness, Health club


The nuclear protein I(2)(PP2A)/SET, an endogenous inhibitor of protein phosphatase-2A (PP2A), is increased and translocated to the cytoplasm in the neurons of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) brains, and PP2A activity in cytoplasm is compromised. However, it is not fully understood how SET is retained in the cytoplasm. By generating a phosphorylation site-specific antibody, we found in the present study that SET is phosphorylated at Ser9, by which it is accumulated in the cytoplasm of the AD brains. Further studies demonstrate that both the phosphor-mimic and casein kinase (CK)II-mediated phosphorylation at Ser9 interferes with the formation of the SET/importin-α/importin-β complex, and thus inhibits SET nuclear import and induces the cytoplasmic detention of SET. Interestingly, Ser9 is nested in the center of the sequence (6)AKVSKK(11) of SET, which is consistent with a classical nuclear localization signal (NLS). To test whether (6)AKVSKK(11) is a new NLS of SET, we mutated SET lysine 7, lysine 10, and lysine 11 to alanine acid (K7A, K10A, K11A) respectively, and expressed these mutants in HEK293/tau cells. We found that expression of SET (K11A) led to a nuclear import defect of SET, and application of a synthesized peptide Tat-AAKVSKKE that can competitively bind to importin α/β resulted in cytoplasmic detention of SET. Finally, phosphorylation of SET aggravates PP2A inhibition and leads to tau hyperphosphorylation. In conclusion, the current study has identified a novel mechanism that causes cytoplasmic detention of SET with a new NLS-dependent CKII-associated phosphorylation of Ser9, suggesting that inhibition of CKII arrests cytoplasmic accumulation of SET and thus preserves PP2A activity in AD brains.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Protein, Cell nucleus, Cell biology, Peptide, Nuclear localization signal, Ran, Importin


Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease primarily involving the corticospinal tract, brainstem, and anterior cells of the spinal cord. Mutations in the profilin 1 gene (PFN1) were recently described in ALS families. To investigate the spectrum and frequency of PFN1 mutations further, we sequenced all 3 exons of the PFN1 gene in 20 familial ALS index cases, 324 sporadic ALS patients, and 355 healthy control subjects. No nonsynonymous coding variants were identified. Our findings suggest that mutations in the PFN1 gene are not a common cause of ALS in the Chinese population.

Concepts: DNA, China, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Neurodegenerative disorders, People's Republic of China, Medulla oblongata, Corticospinal tract, Spinothalamic tract


This study investigated the relationship between education and physical activity and the difference between a physiological prediction of age and chronological age (CA). Cortical and subcortical gray matter regional volumes were calculated from 331 healthy adults (range: 19-79 years). Multivariate analyses identified a covariance pattern of brain volumes best predicting CA (R(2) = 47%). Individual expression of this brain pattern served as a physiologic measure of brain age (BA). The difference between CA and BA was predicted by education and self-report measures of physical activity. Education and the daily number of flights of stairs climbed (FOSC) were the only 2 significant predictors of decreased BA. Effect sizes demonstrated that BA decreased by 0.95 years for each year of education and by 0.58 years for 1 additional FOSC daily. Effects of education and FOSC on regional brain volume were largely driven by temporal and subcortical volumes. These results demonstrate that higher levels of education and daily FOSC are related to larger brain volume than predicted by CA which supports the utility of regional gray matter volume as a biomarker of healthy brain aging.

Concepts: Scientific method, Prediction, Futurology, Future, Prophecy, Cerebral cortex, Thermodynamics, Aging