Alzheimer’s is a very dangerous disease, which consists of the fact that the patient’s brain is damaged, and because of this, the patient loses some cognitive abilities.
Over time, patients cannot take care of themselves, respond to others, and maintain social ties. However, there are reasons for this in the form of changes occurring in the patient’s brain.
Certain brain cells die and lead to dementia. In Alzheimer’s disease, most often the first cells in the brain responsible for memory begin to die. Therefore, the first signs of the disease may be memory loss and difficulty in remembering new information.
In this article, we will look at exactly how Alzheimer’s disease affects the brain, which parts of the brain are damaged, and how it affects the patient’s behavior.
How Does Alzheimer’s Affect the Brain
Consider how Alzheimer’s disease affects the patient’s brain and life:
- The brain shrinks during the healthy aging process, but it doesn’t lose a lot of neurons. In Alzheimer’s patients, brain damage causes neurons to stop functioning correctly, lose contact with other neurons, and eventually die.
- Alzheimer’s disease negatively affects the functioning of neurons in the brain, and destroys their connections, maintaining the necessary metabolism and recovery.
- At the very beginning of its appearance, Alzheimer’s disease destroys neurons and their connections with each other in those parts of the brain that are responsible for memory. These areas of the brain are the entorhinal cortex and the hippocampus.
- Alzheimer’s spreads to those parts of the cerebral cortex responsible for language, speech, thinking, and behavior. Gradually, the disease covers other parts of the brain, which leads to the fact that the patient loses his ability to work, and aggravation of the condition can lead to death.
Main Characteristics of the Alzheimer’s Brain
In Alzheimer’s disease, most often, the first cells in the brain responsible for memory begin to die. Main Characteristics of the Alzheimer’s Brain include:
- Amyloid plaques
- Neurofibrillary plexus
- Chronic Inflammation
- Changes in the functioning of the vessels of the brain
- Cell death and disruption of neural connections
Many molecular and cellular changes occur in the brain of a patient with Alzheimer’s disease. These changes are evident during an examination of the brain under a microscope after the patient’s death. Until now, experts are researching which brain changes can provoke the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and which are the result of the disease.
Let’s take a closer look at a patient’s brain with Alzheimer’s disease.
1. Amyloid plaques
The development of Alzheimer’s disease is provoked by the breakdown of a large amyloid precursor protein, resulting in the appearance of beta-amyloid protein.
For example, beta-amyloid 42 is a hazardous type of amyloid.
When examining the brain of a patient with Alzheimer’s disease, aggregations of abnormal levels of this protein can be noted, as a result of which plaques form. They accumulate between neurons, thereby disrupting the normal functioning of cells. To date, experts continue to investigate at what stage Alzheimer’s forms of beta-amyloid begin to affect the brain.
2. Neurofibrillary plexus
These tangles are abnormal collections of a protein called tau. Tau accumulates inside neurons.
- As a rule, healthy neurons are supported by structures – microtubules. These structures direct nutrients and molecules from the cell body to the axons and dendrites. In a person without Alzheimer’s, tau binds to microtubules and helps them stabilize.
- However, in Alzheimer’s patients, chemical damage triggers tau, which begins to detach from microtubules and attach to other tau molecules to form filaments. In the end, the strands are connected, which gives rise to tangles inside the neurons. The tangles interfere with the normal functioning of the transport system of neurons, which disrupts the synaptic connection between them.
Research suggests that the brain with Alzheimer’s disease may be driven by a complex interaction between abnormal and tau and beta-amyloid proteins.
Most likely, the abnormal tau is skewed in certain brain parts associated with memory functioning.
3. Chronic Inflammation
Experts note that chronic inflammation can be triggered by the accumulation of glial cells.
These cells are essential to keep the brain free of debris. In Alzheimer’s disease, one type of glial cell, the microlonia, fails to clear the waste and unwanted proteins.
4. Changes in the functioning of the brain vessels
Usually, patients with dementia have problems related to other organs. As a rule, along with Alzheimer’s disease, the patient suffers from vascular problems, arteriosclerosis, and a mini-stroke.
Alzheimer’s disease is both a cause and a result of vascular disease. Researchers continue to work on ways to break this cycle of problems.
5. Cell death and disruption of neural connections
Patients with Alzheimer’s disease experience neuronal damage and death throughout the brain. The connections established between neurons are destroyed, and as a result of which many parts of the brain begin to shrink. In the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease, brain atrophy occurs, leading to significant losses in brain volume.
Alzheimer’s Brain vs Normal Brain
If we look at the brains of two people, one of whom has Alzheimer’s disease, and the other is healthy, we can notice significant differences between the two brains.
Let’s look at a few points that will help us understand the difference between the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient and a healthy patient:
- The brain of a patient with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is much smaller than the brain of a healthy person. This is because, in Alzheimer’s disease, the brain gradually shrinks to one-third of its standard size. And also, if you look at a healthy human brain, its folds are full and close enough to each other.
- In a patient with Alzheimer’s, the brain folds are much narrower than in the brain of a healthy person, and the gaps between the folds are much broader.
- The patient’s neurons die, and plaque builds up in areas like the hippocampus.
- Alzheimer’s disease starts in the hippocampus. This part of the brain is responsible for memory and thinking.
- The brain of a healthy person metabolizes a chemical called amyloid precursor protein. In Alzheimer’s patients, the amyloid precursor protein is converted into a beta-amyloid protein. This protein does not cleanse the brain. Clots form in the patient’s brain that sticks between neurons and damage them.
- People with Alzheimer’s often have abnormal tangles of a protein called tau. This protein is found inside neurons in healthy people. However, in Alzheimer’s disease, amyloid-beta interacts with tau proteins. This gives rise to the appearance of abnormal protein clumps and tangles. As a result, plaques form in the brain, areas of repaired neurons, and brain death.
How Does the Brain with Alzheimer’s Disease Affect Behaviour?
If the patient’s behavior changes, it is worth paying attention to this, as this may signal damage to any parts of the brain. Let’s take a closer look at how Alzheimer’s brain damage affects a patient’s behavior.
1. Limbic system
This part of the brain is damaged when a patient with Alzheimer’s disease is in the early stage. The limbic system is responsible for memory, emotions, and associating behavior with emotions. This system controls feelings and basic physical needs such as sleep and food.
What behavioral changes may be noticeable in a patient with damage to the limbic system:
- Deterioration of memory;
2. Frontal lobe
The frontal lobe of the brain is responsible for initiating the activity. The frontal lobe helps to plan and organize any actions. It also regulates a person’s judgments, as well as their behavior.
So, for example, with the help of the frontal lobe, the following happens:
- Understanding what behavior is appropriate in a particular situation;
- Analysis of the feelings of people around;
- Analysis of one’s actions.
Symptoms of damage to the brain’s frontal lobe can have patients with Alzheimer’s disease:
- Stop social activities;
- Rapid cessation of interest in various activities;
- Repeating the same action.
3. Hippocampus and temporal lobes
The hippocampus is the place in the brain where verbal and visual memory processing takes place.
- Verbal memory is expressed in the form of memories that are associated with information obtained through reading, listening, and speaking.
- Visual memory allows a person to recognize objects such as faces and places. The temporal lobes are responsible for learning new things, as well as for the work of short-term memory.
Symptoms of damage to the temporal lobe of the brain that can have a patient with Alzheimer’s disease:
- Memory loss;
- Reducing the number of words used;
- The patient does not recognize familiar faces and loses orientation in space.
4. Parietal lobes
The parietal lobes serve to help a person in such areas as:
- Using tools or performing necessary tasks that require logical actions such as driving a car.
Symptoms of damage to the parietal lobes of the brain:
- Poor orientation in space;
- Memory loss;
- Incorrect use of words;
- Difficulties with expressing thoughts in writing;
- Difficulties with processing invoices;
- Loss in space;
- Violation of coordination in space.
Symptoms that can have patients with Alzheimer’s may vary depending on which side of the brain has been damaged.
5. Occipital lobe
This part of the brain is responsible for vision. The occipital lobe of the brain allows you to see and combine colors, shapes of objects, and their movements. The brain’s occipital lobe is not involved in Alzheimer’s disease; however, some visual areas can be damaged to affect vision.
Lone Star Neurology clinic is always ready to provide professional medical care
Alzheimer’s disease is a dangerous condition. Alzheimer’s disease does bad things to the brain of patients, affecting their performance, cognitive functions, and behavior. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but a doctor’s prescription can help a patient stabilize the condition and keep it from worsening for as long as possible. If someone has this or another disease, visit our clinic’s website. Call us at (214) 619-1910, and make an appointment.
We treat various neurological disorders such as:
- Diabetic neuropathy;
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Alzheimer’s disease;
- Headaches and migraines;
- Parkinson’s disease;
- Multiple sclerosis.
It is not a complete list we can help with; our neurologists deal with many diseases.
What happens when you have Alzheimer’s disease?
As Alzheimer’s disease worsens, the condition of patients deteriorates significantly. Symptoms include memory and several other cognitive problems such as loss of orientation in space, asking the same questions, difficulty performing everyday tasks, and changes in character and behavior.
What are Alzheimer’s effects on the body?
In addition to the fact that Alzheimer’s disease negatively affects the patient’s cognitive abilities, it can also negatively affect changes in the body. For example, a patient with Alzheimer’s disease may experience impaired movement, problems with body coordination, shaking or heaviness in the body, weight loss, coughing, and choking.
What happens with the brain of someone with dementia?
If a patient has dementia, the connections between the networks of neurons can be destroyed and many areas of the brain begin to shrink, after which the neurons in their brain become damaged and die. In the end, atrophy of the brain occurs, which causes a significant loss of brain volume.
What is the difference between Alzheimer’s brain and a normal brain?
A healthy brain metabolizes a chemical called amyloid precursor protein (APP). However, in patients with Alzheimer’s, APP is converted to a protein called beta-amyloid. In this case, the brain does not clean up this protein. Instead, the proteins form clumps and tangles that stick together between neurons and damage them.