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Turning Alzheimer's fuzzy signals into high definition
Date:5/7/2013

Scientists at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute have discovered how the predominant class of Alzheimer's pharmaceuticals might sharpen the brain's performance

One factor even more important than the size of a television screen is the quality of the signal it displays. Having a life-sized projection of Harry Potter dodging a Bludger in a Quidditch match is of little use if the details are lost to pixilation.

The importance of transmitting clear signals, however, is not relegated to the airwaves. The same creed applies to the electrical impulses navigating a human brain. Now, new research has shown that one of the few drugs approved for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease helps patients by clearing up the signals coming in from the outside world.

The discovery was made by a team of researchers led by Rosalyn Moran, an assistant professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute. Her study indicates that cholinesterase inhibitors a class of drugs that stop the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine allow signals to enter the brain with more precision and less background noise.

"Increasing the levels of acetylcholine appears to turn your fuzzy, old analog TV signal into a shiny, new, high-definition one," said Moran, who holds an appointment as an assistant professor in the Virginia Tech College of Engineering. "And the drug does this in the sensory cortices. These are the workhorses of the brain, the gatekeepers, not the more sophisticated processing regions such as the prefrontal cortex where one may have expected the drugs to have their most prominent effect."

Alzheimer's disease affects more than 35 million people worldwide a number expected to
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Contact: Paula Byron
paulabyron@vt.edu
540-526-2027
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert

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