Dementia plaques attack language center of brain

Posted on March 11, 2016

Photo: flickr

The recent ability to peer into the brain of living individuals with a rare type of language dementia, primary progressive aphasia (PPA), provides important new insights into the beginning stages of this disease -- which results in language loss -- when it is caused by a buildup of a toxic protein found in Alzheimer's disease.

The research also offers additional insight into why this type of dementia causes people to lose the ability to express themselves and understand language.

Using a special imaging technique, Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered the toxic build-up of amyloid protein is greater on the left side of the brain -- the site of language processing -- than on the right side in many individuals living with PPA.

Previously, amyloid accumulation in the brain could only be studied after an individual with Alzheimer's disease had died. This snapshot in time was after the disease had run its full course, and amyloid had spread throughout the entire brain. Now, a new technology called Amyloid PET Imaging allows researchers to study the build-up of the toxic amyloid during life.

Scientists scanned 32 PPA patients, and 19 of them had high amounts of amyloid and were likely to have the Alzheimer's pathology. They were compared to 22 people who had the Alzheimer's memory dementia. Those with the memory dementia had the same amount of amyloid on the left and right side of the brain.


Source material from Northwestern University

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