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Subjects at risk of Alzheimer's may now be able to delay the onset of their first symptoms
Date:3/23/2011

This press release is available in French.

The human brain loses 5 to 10% of its weight between the ages of 20 and 90 years old. While some cells are lost, the brain is equipped with two compensatory mechanisms: plasticity and redundancy. Based on the results of her most recent clinical study published today in the online version of Brain: A Journal of Neurology, Dr. Sylvie Belleville, PhD in neuropsychology, the principal author of this study and Director of Research at the Institut universitaire de griatrie de Montral (IUGM), which is affiliated with the Universit de Montral, has found that for elderly subjects at risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, hope may lie in brain plasticity.

"Brain plasticity refers to the brain's remarkable ability to change and reorganize itself. It was long thought that brain plasticity declined with age, however, our study demonstrates that this is not the case, even in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease", declares Sylvie Belleville.

These findings open countless new avenues of research including the possibility of improving the plasticity of affected areas of the brain, and slowing the decline in plasticity through pharmacological means or lifestyle changes, thereby allowing subjects with Alzheimer's disease to enjoy several more symptom-free years.

The hypothesis behind this research was that certain cells traditionally involved in other brain processes could, through a simple memory training program, temporarily take over since they themselves are not yet affected. According to Dr. Belleville: "Our research has validated our hypothesis. Not only were we able to use functional imaging to observe this diversification, but we also noted a 33% increase in the number of correct answers given during a post-training memory task by subjects with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) who, incidentally
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Contact: William Raillant-Clark
w.raillant-clark@umontreal.ca
514-343-7593
University of Montreal
Source:Eurekalert

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