Scientists have found the part of the brain where Alzheimer’s disease first starts, determined how the disease spreads, and discovered why the disease begins where it does according to research presented in the Dec. 22, 2013, issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience by Dr. Scott A. Small, Boris and Rose Katz Professor of Neurology, professor of radiology, and director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at Columbia University Medical Center, and Dr. Karen E. Duff, professor of pathology and cell biology at Columbia University Medical Center.
The results were based on a four year analysis of 96 people who had no signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease at the start of the trial. At the end of the trial 12 of the participants had developed mild Alzheimer’s disease. The analysis was made using frequent brain scans with high-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
Alzheimer’s disease begins in the lateral entorhinal cortex of the brain. This structure feeds information to the hippocampus where memories are stored.
The researchers found that Alzheimer’s spreads in neurons on a functional basis. This discovery explains the heightened effect on the parietal cortex that controls navigation and spatial orientation.
Alzheimer’s disease begins when a high concentration of both tau protein and amyloid precursor protein exist in the lateral entorhinal cortex.
The researchers suggest that their findings will enable physicians to detect the earliest beginnings of Alzheimer’s.