Nav: Home

Spatial navigation abnormalities could hint at Alzheimer's years before onset

October 22, 2015

While navigating a virtual maze, young adults at high genetic risk of Alzheimer's disease demonstrated reduced functioning of brain cells involved in spatial navigation, causing them to navigate the maze differently than controls, a new study finds. Identifying early biomarkers of the disease, such as abnormal grid cell functioning, could be a valuable step in the field of Alzheimer's research since the best hope for minimizing development of the disease lies in early intervention. Previous research reveals that Alzheimer's begins in a region of the brain called the entorhinal cortex (EC) long before symptoms appear; abnormalities can be observed in adults under the age of 30. Lukas Kunz et al. therefore measured the functioning of grid cells, a type of cell in the EC involved in spatial navigation, in young adults navigating a virtual maze. The researchers compared the performance of individuals with the APOE-ε4 gene, and thus at high risk of developing Alzheimer's, against control participants. While the high-risk group had similar spatial memory performance compared to controls, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) revealed that these individuals had significantly reduced grid cell functioning. This group also showed a reduced preference to navigate in the center of the virtual arena compared to control participants. Further analysis suggests that the high-risk group may be compensating for their abnormal grid-cell functioning by harnessing the hippocampus, another brain region associated with Alzheimer's disease, in order to maintain the same level of spatial memory performance seen in the control group. These differences in grid cell functioning, detectable through simple fMRI, could be used to identify those susceptible to developing Alzheimer's, although more long-term research is needed to confirm whether early reduced grid-cell functioning is directly related to disease development later in life.
Article #9: "Reduced grid-cell-like representations in adults at genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease," by L. Kunz; H. Lee; R. Stirnberg; T. Stöcker; P.C. Messing-Floeter; N. Axmacher at German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) in Bonn, Germany; L. Kunz; M. Reuter; P.C. Messing-Floeter; J. Fell at University of Bonn in Bonn, Germany; T.N. Schröder; C.F. Doeller at Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands; C. Montag; B. Lachmann; R. Sariyska at Ulm University in Ulm, Germany; N. Axmacher at Ruhr-University Bochum in Bochum, Germany.

American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related Disease Articles:

Potential link for Alzheimer's disease and common brain disease that mimics its symptoms
A new study by investigators from Brigham and Women's Hospital uncovered a group of closely related genes that may capture molecular links between Alzheimer's disease and Limbic-predominant Age-related TDP-43 Encephalopathy, or LATE, a recently recognized common brain disorder that can mimic Alzheimer's symptoms.
Antioxidant agent may prevent chronic kidney disease and Parkinson's disease
Researchers from Osaka University developed a novel dietary silicon-based antioxidant agent with renoprotective and neuroprotective effects.
Tools used to study human disease reveal coral disease risk factors
In a study published in Scientific Reports, a team of international researchers led by University of Hawai'i (UH) at Mānoa postdoctoral fellow Jamie Caldwell used a statistical technique typically employed in human epidemiology to determine the ecological risk factors affecting the prevalence of two coral diseases--growth anomalies, abnormalities like coral tumors, and white syndromes, infectious diseases similar to flesh eating bacteria.
Disease-aggravating mutation found in a mouse model of neonatal mitochondrial disease
The new mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variant drastically speeds up the disease progression in a mouse model of GRACILE syndrome.
Human longevity largest study of its kind shows early detection of disease & disease risks
Human Longevity, Inc. (HLI) announced the publication of a ground-breaking study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
30-year study identifies need of disease-modifying therapies for maple syrup urine disease
A new study analyzes 30 years of patient data and details the clinical course of 184 individuals with genetically diverse forms of Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD), which is among the most volatile and dangerous inherited metabolic disorders.
Long-dormant disease becomes most dominant foliar disease in New York onion crops
Until recently, Stemphylium leaf blight has been considered a minor foliar disease as it has not done much damage in New York since the early 1990s.
Inflammatory bowel disease appears to impact risk of Parkinson's disease
Amsterdam, NL, November 14, 2019 - Relatively new research findings indicating that the earliest stages of Parkinson's disease (PD) may occur in the gut have been gaining traction in recent years.
Contact sports associated with Lewy body disease, Parkinson's disease symptoms, dementia
There is mounting evidence that repetitive head impacts from contact sports and other exposures are associated with the neurodegenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and dementia.
In kidney disease patients, illicit drug use linked with disease progression and death
Among individuals with chronic kidney disease, hard illicit drug use was associated with higher risks of kidney disease progression and early death.
More Disease News and Disease Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.