The preceding post discussed contradictions as a strategy for achieving insight. It has bothered me for quite some time that the majority of research into Alzheimer’s has been targeting the tau tangles and beta-amyloid plaques. But research has revealed that people whose brains are scared with tau tangles and beta-amyloid plaques have shown no cognitive or behavioral indications of Alzheimer’s. This has been called resilient cognition and has been attributed to individuals who have built up a cognitive reserve and whose brains have adapted to the physiological changes. Why has this contradiction been ignored and research has continued to be focused on eliminating the tau tangles and amyloid-plaque?
New research reported in the July 16th Washington Post by Fredrick Kunkle has found a new protein TDP-43, a TAR DNA binding protein. This protein had been discovered by researchers in the Mayo Clinic who are studying prefrontal lobe dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Fortunately these researchers turned their attention on Alzheimer’s. They found that 57% of the cadavers with Alzheimer’s had TDP-43 in their brains. After controlling for other variables including beta-amyloid and tau deposits, age, and genetic risk, cadavers with the TDP-43 protein were ten times as likely to be severely cognitively impaired at death as those without the TDP-43 deposits. Those with TDP-43 also had faster rates of brain tissue loss over time than those without TDP-43.
So perhaps this contradiction can finally be recognized and research be retargeted at TDP-43, the effects of which are unambiguous. Meanwhile we should all stay cognitively, physically, and socially active, being mindful to keep our memories healthy and to continue our cognitive growth.
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