Scientific research has delivered knowledge about what happens with the brain cells when someone develops Alzheimers Disease. But they still don’t know what causes the disease. There are some thoughts about inheritance.
Until now the most sure is, older people are more likely to get it. With increasing age, the chances increase. More and more people are getting older than 85 and at that age the risk is higher that at 65.
Neurotransmitters And Brain Cell Shrinkage
Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers in the brain. In the brain of a person with Alzheimer disease the amounts of neurotransmitters are decreased.
Besides that they develop deposits of protein and fiber that prevent the cells from working properly. When this happens, the cells can’t send the right signals to other parts of the brain.
Over time, brain cells affected by Alzheimer disease also begin to shrink and die.
Age Changes or Alzheimer’s?
As we get older all parts of our body start to function a bit less. This also applies to our brain cells. Getting older almost everybody notices there are moments having problems remembering a name or an appointment or whatever.
However possible signs of Alzheimer’s Disease are serious memory loss, even if someone else reminds us at something still not being able to recall it.
My father sometimes held his hands against his head and complained about not feeling right in his mind. As if he had cotton wool in his head. He also showed a change in behavior and became increasingly suspicious.
One of the main aspects of dementia and maybe especially Alzheimer’s disease is an increasing number of brain cells get worse and ultimately die.
As time goes by the disease affects many parts of the brain. This results in a decreasing ability to carry out earlier very normal activities. Eventually they get also problems with walking and talking.
Plaques And Tangles
Carrying out his research on the brain of the deceased Auguste D (his first patient he noticed with these special symptoms), Alois Alzheimer found two abnormal structures. He suspected them to be responsible for the damaging and killing of nerve cells in the brain.
Scientists later called these structures plaques and tangles.
- Plaques: build up between nerve cells. They contain deposits of a protein fragment called beta-amyloid.
- Tangles: form inside dying cells. People with Alzheimer’s tend to develop far more than normally found in the brain of older people… The plaques and tangles tend to form in a predictable pattern, beginning in areas important in learning and memory and then spreading to other regions.
What Do Plaques And Tangles Do?
Scientists are not absolutely sure what role play in Alzheimer’s disease. Most experts believe somehow plaques and tangles block the communication among nerve cells.
In autopsy and looking at brain tissue of Alzheimer patients under the microscope:
- They found many fewer nerve cells and synapses than in a normal and healthy brain.
- Plaques build up between nerve cells as abnormal clusters of protein fragments.
- Tangles are found in dead and dying nerve cells.
At this moment scientists still are not absolutely sure about the causes of cell death and tissue loss in the Alzheimer brain. However they are sure plaques and tangles play an important role.