Study reveals links between genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s disease and cellular damage in the brain

New research has revealed large-scale changes in the activity of certain genes involved in memory formation in the human brain.

The study by the University of York, which was funded by the Alzheimer’s Association and the Medical Research Council, examined the relationship between gene activity and Alzheimer’s disease. Analysis of data from human brain scans of patients who died from Alzheimer’s, it found a major increase in genetic activity close to important brain regions implicated in memory.

The research provides a clear link between gene activity and certain brain regions implicated in memory protection, and highlights the need for increasing funding from the Alzheimer’s Association to support research identifying genes important for memory and cognition.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 1.2 million people will be affected by dementia in the UK in 2019/20.

In the UK alone, there are 6,000 cases, and increasing, with every year, there are another 1,000 added to that already seen by the end of 2019.

These figures are damaging as every such that the problem will continue to happen at a considerably faster rate, say experts who are leading the research. The researchers say the findings in this new cohort study provide the basis for further understanding of the role genes play in protecting cognitive function.

Genes could participate in protecting memory, by being involved in regulating specific brain regions that allow us to control our attention and take action. Memory is also an important function that enables us to remember information and pass information on. With further testing, they say the huge amount of damage that could occur if the genes are affected could be up to tenfold.

Kim Guil, Professor in Cognition and Aging Research at University of York’s Psychology & Language Sciences Institute, points out it is likely that dementia is more common amongst humans, and genes played an important role in protecting memory throughout life.

“With ongoing research advancing knowledge, we will move closer to answering big theoretical questions about neuropsychiatric diseases,” he said. “If this research is replicated, it will increase our understanding of the role genes play in the human brain and how the brain develops its memory base, and potentially lead to the development of novel medical treatments.”


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