How does Alzheimer's affect the brain
December 22, 2006 3:45am CST
Alzheimer's affects the brain in a number of degenerative ways, with the most common symptoms including dementia, amnesia and a breakdown of cognitive skills, such as problem solving. It is believed to be caused by an initial deficiency in the neural transmitter acetylcholine, causing abnormalities in protein levels. When the disease first begins to affect the brain, it deposits an abnormal protein (amyloid beta) around the nerve cells, as well as within the blood vessels in the brain. The buildup of these protein deposits diffuse atrophy and loss of neurons in the brain, causing an atrophy and enlarged ventricles. By reducing the effectiveness of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, somatostatin and norepinephrine, the brain is no longer to cognate at higher levels and degenerates. It primarily effects older people, and has been linked to certain diets, environments and diseases. Although there is no current cure for the disease, drugs can be used to reduce short-term memory loss and slow the production of abnormal proteins in the brain.