If you often doze off during the day, the latest research suggests it might be an early signal of Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s is a memory-robbing disease that damages the area of the brain which keeps you awake during the day. It damages that part of the brain that keeps you awake during the day in its early stage, which is why people with Alzheimer’s may find themselves napping excessively long before they begin to struggle with forgetting things.
It is not just that, the researchers also found that damage to brain regions involved in daytime wakefulness was caused by a protein known as tau. According to the researcher, this further confirms that tau may play a big role in Alzheimer’s than amyloid protein, which has been studied extensively.
The study senior author, Dr, Lea Grinberg (an associate professor of neurology and pathology at the Memory and Aging Center and the Global Brain Health Institute member at the University of California, San Francisco) says, “Our work shows definite evidence that the part of the brain that promotes wakefulness degenerate due to tau accumulation – not amyloid protein – from the earliest stage of the disease.”
Previous research showed that excessive napping is a result of poor sleep caused by Alzheimer’s-related disruptions in the part of the brain that promote sleep, or that sleep issues themselves contribute to the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
The study in detail
In this research, the researcher analyzed the brain of 7 people without Alzheimer’s disease and 13 deceased Alzheimer’s patients. The researchers concluded that Alzheimer’s disease attacks the parts of the brain responsible for wakefulness during the day and that these parts are among the first regions damaged by the disease.
The study suggests that too much daytime napping could be an early harbinger of Alzheimer’s disease.
In the brains affected by the Alzheimer’s, significant tau buildup was found in all three wakefulness-promoting areas examined by the researchers, and the regions had lost as many as 75 percents of the neurons.
According to research lead by Jun Oh, a Grinberg lab research associate, “It is remarkable because it is not a single brain nucleus that is degenerating, but the whole wakefulness-promoting network. Oh says, this means that the brain has no way to compensate because of the functionally related cell types are being destroyed at the same time.
Oh also says, “It seems that the wakefulness-promoting network is vulnerable in Alzheimer’s disease.” “Understanding why this is the case is something we need to follow up in the future study.”
This study and other findings suggest that tau buildup plays a greater part in Alzheimer’s than the widely studied Amyloid protein. According to the UCSF team, research into amyloid has failed to result in effective Alsheimer’s treatments.
Grinberg also says, “Study adds to a growing body of work that shows that tau burden is likely a direct driver of (mental) decline.