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2007 Grant - Byrne
Synaptic Dysfunction in Alzheimer's Disease
Gerard J. Byrne, M.B.B.S., Ph.D.
University of Queensland
2007 Investigator-Initiated Research Grant
Synapses are specialized regions of nerve cells that perform the function of communicating between cells. Synapses perform many of the special functions of the brain relating to signal processing and memory. Because people with Alzheimer's disease exhibit impairments in memory and thought processes, it is suspected that synapses are functioning abnormally in patients with the disease.
Gerard Byrne, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., and colleagues have been following a group of people with Alzheimer's disease and monitoring their brain function. Some of these patients have volunteered to allow the researchers to study their brain after they die. The researchers plan to study certain regions of the brain using methods that identify and quantify specific markers of synapse function. They will compare the results with those from brains of donors who died of causes unrelated to Alzheimer's disease.
Some evidence from animal studies suggests that when nerve cells die in Alzheimer's disease, the remaining nerve cells try to compensate by forming more synapses. These newly formed synapses are likely to be nonspecific and disordered, possibly contributing to impaired brain function.
The researchers plan to test this idea and examine the balance of different types of synapses in the brain of persons who died of Alzheimer's disease. The results of these studies should improve our understanding of how Alzheimer's disease affects nerve cells and how they communicate.