Alzheimer’s damages parts of the brain that make us feel awake

13 August 2019

Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Profound degeneration of wake-promoting neurons in Alzheimer’s disease

Researchers in California have found evidence for the accumulation of tau in brain regions associated with waking up. Their findings are published today (Tuesday 12 August) in the scientific journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK said:

“While it’s normal to periodically experience a bad night’s sleep, sleep problems are particularly common in people living with dementia.

“People with Alzheimer’s are more likely to nap during the day and researchers generally think that this is to make up for interrupted sleep at night.

“This small study, looking at the post-mortem brains of 13 people who had Alzheimer’s, suggests that the disease may directly damage areas of the brain responsible for making us feel awake. A protein called tau seems to be driving damage to these brain regions, but we don’t know why these particular areas would be especially vulnerable to this type of damage or the role amyloid may play.

“We don’t know how Alzheimer’s affected the sleep patterns of participants who donated their brains for this research, and we need to see larger, more in depth studies to better understand the brain changes that cause sleep problems in the disease.

“Anyone who is experiencing sleep problems or who has questions about their sleep medication should speak to their doctor.”