The contribution of amyloid-induced neuroinflammatory factors to disturbances in neural processes related to learning and memory

Close to 250,000 Canadians over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s disease. The leading cause of dementia, Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease characterized by loss of memory, judgement and reasoning, and changes in mood and behaviour. There is no known cause or cure. Within the brain, cells shrink or disappear and are replaced by dense spots, or plaques, which contain a protein called beta amyloid. Recent studies show chronic inflammation in the brain cells plays an important role in the development of Alzheimer Disease. Microglia — the smallest cells surrounding neurons — seem to contribute to this process, and the beta amyloid protein interacts with these cells. Dr. Aline Stephan is studying how amyloid deposits inside the brain induce neural changes to affect synaptic processes and memory function. Her research will help explain how inflammation exacerbates memory deficits, and may lead to new therapies to treat the disease.