Sleep & Alzheimer’s Dementia —
Scientists at the University of California (UC), Berkeley, have found compelling evidence that poor sleep—particularly a deficit of the deep, restorative slumber needed to hit the save button on memories—is a channel through which the beta-amyloid protein believed to trigger Alzheimer’s disease attacks the brain’s long-term memory.
“Our findings reveal a new pathway through which Alzheimer’s disease may cause memory decline later in life,” says UC Berkeley neuroscience professor Matthew Walker, senior author of the study published Monday in the journal Nature Neuroscience, in a release.
Excessive deposits of beta-amyloid are key suspects in the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease, a virulent form of dementia caused by the gradual death of brain cells. An unprecedented wave of aging baby boomers is expected to make Alzheimer’s disease, which has been diagnosed in more than 40 million people, one of the world’s fastest-growing and most debilitating public health concerns.
The good news about the findings, Walker says, is that poor sleep is potentially treatable and can be enhanced through exercise, behavioral therapy, and even electrical stimulation that amplifies brain waves during sleep, a technology that has been used successfully in young adults to increase their overnight memory.
“This discovery offers hope,” he says. “Sleep could be a novel therapeutic target for fighting back against memory impairment in older adults and even those with dementia.”