Alzheimer’s treatment rests on neuron fingerprints in the brain

Posted Nov 26, 2020 by Tim Sandle
Adopting an unconventional apporach, researchers have proposed that our memories create 'fingerprints'. These can reveal how the brain is organized. The significance of this is with helping to understand the causes of Alzheimer's disease.
PET scans showing the differances between a normal older adult s brain and the brain of an older adu...
PET scans showing the differances between a normal older adult's brain and the brain of an older adult afflicted with Alzheimer's disease. — On photo (left to right): PET scan of normal brain, PET scan of Alzheimer’s disease brain.
National Institutes of Health
On one level the human brain is universal: we share the same features and function. However, probing the intricacies of the brain a little further reveals subtle differences with the brain architecture. In particular the ways that each individual reimagines common scenarios is something that can be observed in brain activity.
With the recent study, the brain activity can be quantified in the form of neurological signatures. Understanding these signatures and the extent to which they alter may provide the basis of better understanding disorders like Alzheimer's disease. It is also possible that this research approach may hold the key to a cure.
For the research, 26 subjects were asked to recall common scenarios, like driving or eating a meal. The scenarios designed so that each subject would recall each event differently. The verbal descriptions from each person were then mapped to a computational linguistic model. The model functioned to approximate the meaning of the words and create numerical representation of the context of the description.
Each person was then placed into a functional magnetic resonance imaging device and requested to reimagine the same experiences. The data allowed the researchers, from the University of Rochester, to isolate brain activity patterns connected with that individual's experiences.
The outcome allowed the scientists to construct a functional model of each participant's brain, or a ‘fingerprint’ of their neurological activity.
The study appears in Nature Communications, where it is titled "Decoding individual identity from brain activity elicited in imagining common experiences."
Molecular brain volume
In related news, a new development has been made in relation to understanding learning and memory. Using the analogy of a 'molecular volume knob', researchers have hypothesized that the regulation of electrical signals in the brain plays an essential part with both learning and memory.
This relates to the synapses in our brain, junctions that enable the neurons in the brain to communicate at different frequencies, are highly dynamic and can communicate in a series of whispers and shouts, which relates to the level of neurotransmitter released. The key appears to rest with studying and understanding the magnitude of chemical neurotransmitter released; something which varies with those suffering from certain disorders.
This discovery may also assist with understanding Alzheimer's disease, as well as other neurological conditions like Parkinson's disease and epilepsy.
The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and the research paper is titled “The potassium channel subunit Kvβ1 serves as a major control point for synaptic facilitation.”