Alzheimer’s, a type of dementia, is a progressive disease that affects a person’s memory and other important functions which are destroyed over time. It usually affects people over the age of 65 and memory loss is one of the most characteristic symptoms of the disease. But do you know why? A new study, published in the journal Neurology, reveals the reason. According to researchers, an alteration or change in the genes may hasten the process of memory loss and affect the thinking ability in people who are already at the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
The team of researchers have discovered that people who have the gene mutation called the BDNF Val66Met allele, or the Met allele may experience a rapid decline of memory and thinking skills than the others. Moreover, if the same category of people have more of a particular protein called beta-amyloid which can turn into plaque found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, their rate of memory decline could be faster.
To get to these findings, the team examined 1,023 people with an average age of 55 for up to 13 years who were at the risk of Alzheimer’s but were still healthy during the onset of the study.
After conducting few tests on verbal learning and memory, it was seen that the scores of those with no gene mutation improved by 0.002 units every year, while the scores of the people with the mutation declined by 0.021 units per year.
Ozioma Okonkwo, from the University of Wisconsin in Madison in the United States, explains that this could have happened because when there is no mutation, the BDNF gene and the protein it produces have a protective effect on the brain and thus, may help in preserving memory and other mental capabilities.
He further states that the study is significant because this particular gene can be detected before the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s appear and this phase is critical for quick treatment that may be able to delay or prevent the disease. The most common symptoms of Alzheimer’s include problems with memory, judgement and thinking. These symptoms can be managed with the help of the right medication and lifestyle changes but there is not cure for the disease. In fact, the real cause of the disease is still a bit obscure but certain genetic changes that cause death of the brain cells has been considered as the biggest factor. However, certain lifestyle and environmental factors like aging, family history, sleep deprivation or depression have also been known to increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.