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  • The Center mourns the loss of a dear friend and tireless CVL supporter. click here

  • CVL councilmember and benefactor’s life remembered in the Dallas Morning News.click here

  • Aging-themed issue of Nautilus Magazine explores cognitive benefits of learning a new game such as chess, cites CVL.click here

  • ‘Fitizen’ group at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas learns about research at CVL. click here

  • CVL research published in JoN finds that some memories persist in the face of strong interference. click here

  • Dr. Sara Festini’s research probes busyness levels and cognitive performance.click here

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CVl Annual Review


CVl Annual Review

Charting Our Progress is CVL’s annual review, with archives available

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Beta-Amyloid Levels Associated with Changes in Brain Activity Offer Potential Insight into Alzheimer’s Disease

DALLAS, April 1, 2018 – Slightly elevated beta-amyloid levels in the brain are associated with increased brain activity in certain brain regions, an indication that the brain may be “working harder” or recruiting more cognitive resources to complete tasks than in individuals with lower levels, a Center for Vital Longevity study has found.

The new research offers a window into when these increasing levels of beta-amyloid, widely known as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s Disease, might reach tipping points in the brain, such that regions crucial to memory begin behaving differently, perhaps foreshadowing important milestones in the disease process.

In a paper published in NeuroImage, Dr. Chris Foster, a postdoctoral researcher in the laboratory of Dr. Karen Rodrigue, explored a new way to interpret intriguing discrepancies found across functional magnetic resonance imaging studies that show increased brain activity and decreased brain activity amid varying beta-amyloid levels.

With slightly elevated levels of beta-amyloid, the main component of amyloid plaques, more activity was seen during a cognitively demanding task in brain regions involved in working memory, Dr. Foster found, after using a quadratic equation that yielded an inverted-U curve in the data. But in individuals with even higher levels of the protein fragment, there was a return to lower activation during the demanding task, showing levels of brain activity that were more like those in people with very little amyloid – a process the authors call “pseudonormalization.”

Although the study is cross-sectional, rather than following the same individuals over time, this novel research offers a step toward better determining when in the lifespan an individual with rising levels of beta-amyloid might experience changes in the way the brain operates. A better understanding of these subtle shifts in brain function could lead to new insights into how Alzheimer’s Disease progresses and possible ways to diagnose it earlier.

“While there may be no outward sign of memory impairment, and no behavioral manifestations of memory issues early on, it is important to understand subtle shifts in the way the brain is functioning in order to understand the disease process with the hope of intervening before it is too late,” Dr. Foster says.

In addition to Dr. Rodrigue as the senior author, other Center for Vital Longevity (CVL) scientists on the research paper are Dr. Kristen Kennedy, Marci Horn and David Hoagey.

This work will likely prompt those in the field who are specifically looking for markers or milestones of when the brain transitions between different activation levels, to re-evaluate some of their data to better understand when in the disease process brain dynamics have taken an irrecoverable turn, Dr. Kennedy said.

Prior to the study, Dr. Foster said he considered evidence that suggests a change from increased to decreased activation actually might occur in the transition from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s Disease.

“The hyper-activation we saw in some people seems to be the result of the excitatory effects of amyloid, at least initially,” Dr. Foster says. “As amyloid accumulates even further, it may act to then dampen the activity, at which point cognition may begin to exhibit subtle changes.”

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Founded in 2010, CVL is a research center of the University of Texas at Dallas, with scientists studying the cognitive neuroscience of aging and ways to maintain cognitive health for life. Researchers at CVL also investigate how to slow cognitive aging and methods for the early detection of age-related neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s Disease. Other research includes studies investigating the cognitive neuroscience of memory, and other fundamental cognitive processes.