FYI Daily

Do Thinking Patterns Play a Role in Alzheimer's?

Last updated: Oct 14, 2011

Brain Coral

I can't stop thinking about some new research described by Alice G. Walton in Forbes -- and maybe that's good for my brain. Researchers puzzling out what causes the complicated cascade of biological events leading to Alzheimer's are looking at whether thought patterns influence the development of the disease.

The action hinges on what's called the "default mode network," the brain regions in use when we're being mindless and not doing tasks that involve focus and concentration. This mind-wandering tends to involve a lot of thinking about one's self -- ruminating "me" thoughts and worries. Research with mice has found a connection between lactate (a byproduct of neuronal activity) and amyloid-beta peptide (the precursor of Alzheimer's plaques). Specifically, when there's a lot of activity in the default network, there's more buildup.

People who don't get a lot of sleep or are depressed have more activity in the default network, for example -- two conditions linked to dementia risk. (The article doesn't mention social isolation, but I wonder about that factor, too.)

Obviously this is early research, but it certainly makes you think: How many environmental triggers swirl together in certain unlucky individuals to create this mystery we call Alzheimer's disease? Until we know for sure, Walton concludes, stay as cognitively active, rested, and happy as you can.