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Clocks in the Human Brain
Researchers observe disruptions of
daily rhythms in Alzheimer’s patients
These findings have implications for the numerous individuals with sleep disturbances including those with Alzheimer’s disease.
“To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of circadian clock genes rhythmic expression in the human forebrain, or the front part of the brain,” says senior author Nicolas Cermakian, a Douglas researcher and Director of the Laboratory of Molecular Chronobiology. “In addition, we showed that these rhythms are disrupted in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients."
Doktor Cermakian and his colleagues looked for the presence of the circadian clock genes, PER1, PER2, and BMAL1 in the brain tissue of 58 donors; 27 were Alzheimer patients and 31 were controls. (Brain tissue was obtained from the Brain Bank of the Douglas.) All these clock genes were detected in three brain areas in both control and Alzheimer patients. In addition, there was a significant diurnal (day/night) expression of these genes in all three structures of control samples. In samples from Alzheimer’s patients, the shape of these rhythms and the synchronization between brain areas were altered.
“The abnormal clock gene coordination that we observed in the tissues of Alzheimer’s patients, might explain the sleep-wake deficits that are observed in this population,” says Douglas Centre for Study and Treatment of Circadian Rhythms Director, Diane B. Boivin. “The altered sleep pattern worsens with disease progression and is the most frequent reason for institutionalization. Improved understanding of the process that underlies sleep-wake disruption may lead to better treatments or therapies. “Our ultimate goal is to improve the physical and mental health of individuals by providing scientifically grounded information.”
This study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec.
MEDICA.de; Source: Douglas Mental Health University Institute