Nobel Prize Winning Research Sheds Light on Alzheimer’s

This year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine is being awarded to three scientists for their contributions to our understanding of the brain’s internal “GPS system.”  Their findings may have groundbreaking implications for Alzheimer’s disease research.

The research shows that certain cells in the brain help us mark our position, understand where we are in space, and help us learn spatial information.  These cells are located in the hippocampus, the area of the brain related to learning and memory, and the part of the brain that becomes damaged earliest in people with Alzheimer’s disease.   This sheds light on why people with early stage Alzheimer’s get lost and disoriented.

John O’Keefe, one of the winners of this year’s prize, foresees that this research could lead to major breakthroughs in our understanding of dementia.

“This will give us the first handle as to when and where the disease starts and how we can attack it at the molecular and cellular level,” says O’Keefe.

Though the findings won’t lead directly to any treatments or solutions to the problem of Alzheimer’s disease in the short term, their research significantly enhances our understanding of how brain cells function in a region of the brain first targeted by Alzheimer’s could shed important light on the disease process.

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