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

double every 20 years, leading to more than 115 million cases by 2050. Of the five pharmaceuticals approved to treat the disease by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, four are cholinesterase inhibitors. Although it is clear that the drugs increase the amount of acetylcholine in the brain, why this improves Alzheimer's symptoms has been unknown. If scientists understood the mechanisms and pathways responsible for improvement, they might be able to tailor better drugs to combat the disease, which costs more than $200 billion annually in the United States alone.

In the new study, Moran recruited 13 healthy young adults and gave them doses of galantamine, one of the cholinesterase inhibitors commonly prescribed to Alzheimer's patients. Two electroencephalographs were taken one with the drugs and one without as the participants listened to a series of modulating tones while focusing on a simple concentration task.

The researchers were looking for differences in neural activity between the two drug states in response to surprising changes in the sound patterns that the participants were hearing.

The scientists compared the results with computer models built on a Bayesian brain theory, known as the Free Energy Principle, which is a leading theory that describes the basic rules of neuronal communication and explains the creation of complex networks.

The theory hypothesizes that neurons seek to reduce uncertainty, which can be modeled and calculated using free energy molecular dynamics. Connecting tens of thousands of neurons behaving in this manner produces the probability machine that we call a brain.

Moran and her colleagues compiled 10 computer simulations based on the different effects that the drugs could have on the brain. The model that best fit the results revealed that the low-level wheels of the brain early on in the neural networking process were the ones benefitting from the drugs and creating clearer, more pr
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Contact: Paula Byron
paulabyron@vt.edu
540-526-2027
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert

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