MINNEAPOLIS – Researchers have identified a possible treatment window for plaques in the brain that are thought to cause memory loss in diseases such as Alzheimer’s, according to a new study published in the February 27, 2013, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
“Our study suggests that plaques in the brain that are linked to a decline in memory and thinking abilities, called beta amyloid, take about 15 years to build up and then plateau,” said Clifford R. Jack, Jr., MD, with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
For the study, 260 people between the ages of 70 and 92 underwent two or more brain scans over an average of 1.3 years that measured plaque buildup in the brain. Of the participants, 78 percent did not have impaired thinking abilities or memory at the start of the study.
The study found that the rate of buildup accelerates initially, then slows down before plateauing at high levels. For example, lower rates of plaque buildup were found in both people who had low and high levels of the plaques at the start of the study while the rate of plaque accumulation was highest in participants with mid-range levels at the start of the study.
The study also found that the rate of buildup of plaques was more closely tied to the total amount of amyloid plaques in the brain than other risk factors, such as the level of cognitive impairment, age and the presence of the APOE gene, a gene linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
“Our results suggest that there is a long treatment window where medications may be able to help slow buildup of the amyloid plaques that are linked to cognitive decline,” said Jack. “On the other hand, trying to treat the plaque buildup after the amyloid plaque load has plateaued may not do much good.”
The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Aging and General Electric Corporation.
To learn more about cognition, visit http://www.aan.com/patients.The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 25,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, brain injury, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy. For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit http://www.aan.com or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube.