Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What kind of damage does Alzheimer’s disease do to the nervous system?

Alzheimer’s disease which affects the victims’ memory, emotions, responses, and reasoning. Primarily, the disease affects the cerebral cortex, which governs movement, thought, and judgment, and the hippocampus, which controls learning and processing.

Alzheimer’s irreversibly damages the hippocampus and the cerebral cortex by forming plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the affected cells. Slowly, the tangles and plaques spread to healthy brain cells until the brain cannot function any longer. The disease decreases the amount of acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter necessary for brain processes) in the cerebral cortex. This is caused by the deterioration of neurons that produce acetylcholine by the protein, beta amyloid.

Essentially, the tangles and plaques take up space in the brain and spread until the affected cells far outnumber the functioning, healthy cells.

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