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Signs of Alzheimer’s seen in young brain’s GPS cells

Young adults at high risk for the memory-sapping disease don’t rely on grid cells to navigate

By
2:00pm, October 22, 2015
virtual maze

BRAIN MAZE  Even before symptoms show up, young people who have a version of a gene linked to Alzheimer’s disease tap into different areas of the brain to navigate through a virtual reality maze. 

Alzheimer’s disease may muck with people’s brains long before symptoms appear.

People in their early 20s with a genetic risk for Alzheimer’s have wonky internal compasses, despite showing no external signs of the disease, researchers report October 23 in Science.

This navigation tool rests deep in the brain, in a small, sausage-shaped region called the entorhinal cortex. Scientists could potentially examine it to detect Alzheimer’s in young people, says neuroscientist Francesca Cacucci of University College London. “In the future, when we have therapies that slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s, you could target the disease very early,” she says.

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