Why Alzheimer’s Patients Wander: This May Explain It

Alzheimer's is a disease that can have devastating effects, not only on patients but on people around them as well. Loss of memory could make Alzheimer's patients do things they would not normally do. Why Alzheimer's patients wander is one of them, and this may help explain it.

Alzheimer's patients are generally found to have protein plaques in their brain. These protein plaques slowly build up, and in time cause disruption in the brain's function, which leads to memory loss. A buildup of a certain protein in the brain causes Alzheimer's patients to get lost.

This protein is called the tau protein. An excess of this protein could lead to disruption of the brain's spatial function. Research on this has been carried out using lab mice. Through this study the researchers have seen how excessive tau protein disrupts the brain's process.

In lab mice, cells in the entorhinal cortex fire in a grid pattern. This grid pattern acts like that of the GPS system in smartphones. The grid pattern executes a triangular coordination system, which helps in locating places. When tau protein builds up, this process would then be disrupted.

Dr. Karen E. Duff, Ph.D. is the lead author of the study. She is a professor of Pathology and Cell Biology at the Columbia University Medical Center. Her study has focused on the excitatory grid cells found in the entorhinal cortex. For the study she and her colleagues have used electrophysiological recordings of the grid cells, according to Science Daily.

Through analysis of the mice brains the researchers have found that excitatory cells have been affected by an excess in tau protein. The inhibitory cells were not fully affected though, as Medical Xpress reports. Hongjun Fu, Ph.D., co-first author of the study and associate research scientist has said that the tau protein has largely spared the inhibitory cells.

The study could be used to make treatments that would target and correct the imbalance produced by excessive tau protein. The treatments could include laser therapy and deep brain stimulation. It would be progress in lessening the effects of Alzheimer's. Researchers have now a better understanding as to why Alzheimer's patients wander, and this research might explain it. A study has also questioned the belief that girls are better than boys in reading.

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