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UCSF, Stanford Study Reveals Neural Networks Targeted in Brain Diseases
Date:4/15/2009

The study, reported in the April 16 issue of the journal "Neuron," was conducted by scientists at the University of California, San Francisco and the Stanford University School of Medicine, who characterized their finding as "an important new framework for understanding neurodegenerative disease."

(Vocus) April 15, 2009 -- Scientists are reporting the strongest evidence to date that neurodegenerative diseases target and progress along distinct neural networks that normally support healthy brain function. The discovery could lead to earlier diagnoses, novel treatment-monitoring strategies, and, possibly, recognition of a common disease process among all forms of neurodegeneration.

The study, reported in the April 16 issue of the journal "Neuron," was conducted by scientists at the University of California, San Francisco and the Stanford University School of Medicine, who characterized their finding as "an important new framework for understanding neurodegenerative disease."

The finding inspired the image for the cover of the issue of the journal.

Researchers have known that neurodegenerative diseases are associated with misfolded proteins that aggregate within specific populations of neurons in the brain. Alzheimer's disease, for instance, results from misfolding events involving beta-amyloid and tau proteins, which result in neuritic plaque and neurofibrillary tangle formation in medial temporal memory structures. In all neurodegenerative diseases, synapses between nerve cells falter, and damage spreads to new regions, accompanied by worsening clinical deficits.

In most cases, however, scientists have not known what determines the specific brain regions affected by a disease. The current neuroimaging study, which examined patients with five forms of early age-of-onset dementia -- Alzheimer's disease, behavioral variant frontot
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