Brain Connections Developed Last Go Away First

Using a new MRI analysis technique to examine myelin sheaths that insulate the brain's wiring, a new study reports as people age, neural connections that develop last degenerate first. The computer-based analysis method is unique in its ability to examine specific brain structures in living people at millimeter resolution.

The study offers new insights into the role of myelin in brain aging and its contribution to the onset of Alzheimer's disease. In addition, the success of the MRI analysis technique opens new opportunities for studying the impact of lifestyle on brain aging and for developing medications that could slow aging or prevent Alzheimer's disease.

Myelin is a sheet of lipid, or fat, with very high cholesterol content, the highest of any brain tissue. The high cholesterol content allows myelin to wrap tightly around axons, speeding messages through the brain by insulating these neural "wire" connections.

As the brain continues to develop in adulthood and as myelin is produced in greater and greater quantities, cholesterol levels in the brain grow and eventually promote the production of a toxic protein that together with other toxins attacks the brain. This toxic environment disrupts brain connections and eventually also leads to the brain/mind-destroying plaques and tangles visible years later in the cortex of Alzheimer's patients.

Rather than use medications that don't work anyway, you can reduce your risk of Alzheimer's through inexpensive and natural means.

EurekAlert July 12, 2004

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