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Researchers Find Neural Compensation In People With Alzheimer's-Related Protein

Update Date: Sep 15, 2014 09:38 AM EDT

Our brain is capable of a neural workaround that compensates for the buildup of a beta-amyloid - a destructive protein associated with Alzheimer's disease - according to a new study. 

The study explains how some older adults with a beta-amyloid deposits in their brain retain normal cognitive function while others develop dementia. 

"This study provides evidence that there is plasticity or compensation ability in the aging brain that appears to be beneficial, even in the face of beta-amyloid accumulation," said study principal investigator Dr. William Jagust, a professor with joint appointments at UC Berkeley's Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, the School of Public Health and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in the press release. 

Earlier studies have shown a link between increased brain-activity and beta-amyloid deposits, however they did not make it clear if the activity was tied to better mental performance. 

"Generally, the groups performed equally well in the tasks, but it turned out that for people with beta-amyloid deposits in the brain, the more detailed and complex their memory, the more brain activity there was," said Jagust. "It seems that their brain has found a way to compensate for the presence of the proteins associated with Alzheimer's."

"I think it's very possible that people who spend a lifetime involved in cognitively stimulating activity have brains that are better able to adapt to potential damage."

The study has been published in the journal Nature Neuroscience. 

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