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2014 Grants - Lin F
Differentiating Neurophysiological Stress Regulation in Alzheimer’s Disease
Feng Lin, Ph.D.
University of Rochester
Rochester, New York
2014 New Investigator Research Grant
People with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias may be under increased levels of stress due to the cognitive demands of daily living that exceed their mental capacity and ability to cope. According to recent studies, stressful experiences can hinder cell-to-cell communication in the brain, thus reducing the brain’s ability to regulate that stress. This “vicious cycle” of stress-related brain changes may lead to significant nerve cell degeneration — especially in regions called the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. Both brain regions are important in stress regulation and are affected early in Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
Feng Lin, Ph.D., and colleagues have been studying how stress regulation occurs in the brains of people with mild cognitive impairment (a condition of mild decline in brain function that may precede Alzheimer’s). They looked specifically at certain brain “networks” through which nerve cells from different regions communicate with one another. Their results show that the central executive network, which helps control various forms of memory, may respond directly to stress. Other studies found a similar stress response in the default mode network, which remains active when most of the brain is at rest. To date, however, it is unknown exactly how these brain networks may regulate the stress response in Alzheimer’s disease.
For their current grant, Dr. Lin and colleagues hope to clarify how certain brain networks impact stress regulation, and examine how these brain networks may become altered in Alzheimer’s disease. Results of this work could shed new light on the mechanisms underlying stress regulation in the brain; and how these mechanisms become altered as dementia progresses. They may also lead to novel ways of using stress reduction to prevent, halt or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.