Plaques can cause memory problems without causing dementia

Plaques, also known as Alzheimer proteins, can cause memory problems in people who have not been diagnosed with dementia, according to researchers at Maastricht UMC+ and the Alzheimer Centre Limburg. They recently conducted a study on the effect of plaques on brain function, the results of which were published this week in the scientific journal JAMA Psychiatry.

Amyloid plaques are proteins that accumulate in people with Alzheimer's disease, the leading cause of dementia. However, these plaques are also present in roughly one-third of people aged sixty and older, although the effect was never demonstrated. The Maastricht researchers therefore analysed several international studies to determine how plaques influence brain function.

The researchers analysed data from more than 7,000 research participants at 53 international research centres. They found that the presence of plaques in people without dementia was often paired with lower scores on memory tests. They also found that it could take up to ten or fifteen years for people with plaques to develop low memory scores. 'This is compelling evidence to suggest that plaques in people without dementia could be an early sign of Alzheimer's disease,' says researcher Willemijn Jansen. 'While plaques aren't entirely innocent, people can function well for a long time despite their presence.'

Prevention strategy
These findings can help to develop new prevention strategies. 'At the moment, there is no medication to combat plaques,' says doctor and researcher Pieter Jelle Visser. 'If these medications were developed, they could be administered at an early stage, before dementia is diagnosed. This would help to prevent Alzheimer's-related dementia symptoms in the long term.' While several new medications for the removal of plaques are currently being tested on people with dementia, the results of these studies will only be revealed in a few years.

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