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Brain reserve capacity and its role in preventing clinical signs of Alzheimer's disease studied

Bennett said. "Animal studies suggest that different experiences can affect the structure the brain, including the number of brain cells and the number of synapses, the connections between brain cells. The extent to which this occurs in humans is unknown. But if lifestyle affects the brain structure of humans, it is possible that education and related factors could increase neural reserve and allow the brain to tolerate pathology without manifesting memory loss and other clinical signs."

The Rush researchers believe that there is a redundancy of several cellular and subcellular components of the neural systems responsible for cognitive function, mobility and strength that are crucial for efficient performance of these systems, and that this redundancy could comprise the structural basis of neural reserve.

The researchers suggest that, whereas some risk factors will directly promote the accumulation of Alzheimer's disease pathology in these systems, other risk factors may actually maintain the structural integrity of these systems and reduce the likelihood that Alzheimer's disease pathology will express itself as memory loss and other signs of the disease.

Volunteers in the study will be recruited from Chicago area continuous care retirement centers, retirement facilities, and subsidized senior housing with a goal toward achieving a gender, racial, and ethnic composition comparable to the over-age-65 population in the United States.

"Enrolling participants representing a wide spectrum of lifetime experiences is crucial," according to Bennett. More than 200 seniors from several Chicago area facilities have participated in a pilot study for the Memory and Aging Project, which has been ongoing since 1997.

A detailed interview covering each participant's life history will be administered at the beginning of the study. Participants will subsequently undergo extensive testing of cognitive and motor function each year.
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Contact: John Pontarelli
jpontare@rsh.net
312-942-5949
Rush University Medical Center
22-Jul-2002


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