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Researchers pinpoint where in the brain Alzheimer's begins

Columbia University Medical Center researchers have used high resolution imaging to show that Alzheimer’s begins in a specific part of the brain, known as a gateway to the hippocampus.

Dr. Scott Small, co-author of the study, says this particular area plays a vital role in consolidating long term memories. The discovery could help with early diagnosis of the disease, and that, he says, could lead to more effective intervention.

“Of course if we can detect as early as possible when it’s most circumscribed to a very small part of the brain, that’s when we can intervene most effectively," Small said. "And then secondly, if we can understand how it spreads, even if we haven’t prevented that first part from becoming effected in the first place, we might think of ways of preventing the spread.”

Small says they suspect the disease spreads through compromising the function of neurons, which in turn damage adjoining areas of the brain. The next step, he says, is to find out why this area is affected first, and develop therapies to protect that part of the brain.