CIHR Health Research in Action: Better sleep may lead to a better fight against Alzheimer’s disease

Sleeping couple

Research team at Université de Montréal offers insights that may help both detect and treat the disease among patients in the future


More than 750,000 Canadians are living with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). This complex neurodegenerative condition destroys brain cells and causes a gradual deterioration of memory and thinking.


A key feature of AD is the development of plaques composed of amyloid beta proteins inside the brain. Researchers at Université de Montréal are studying how fragments of these proteins initially affect neurons in the hippocampus, which blocks communication between neurons and disrupt sleep patterns.


This research could provide new ways to diagnose and monitor the progression of AD. It may also support the use of new interventions that help improve sleep as a treatment for the disease.

Read the full story on the CIHR website


UCalgary researchers use computer modelling to simulate impact of Alzheimer’s on the brain

SumaLateral Whole Brain Image - NIH image gallery

New way to model neural disease could lead to better understanding

Author: Shea Coburn, Hotchkiss Brain Institute

A deep neural network is a computerized brain-inspired machine learning model, which uses many layers of simulated neurons to mimic the function of the cerebral cortex. Each layer in the network creates more complex activity, which simulates the way information is processed in the human brain. These networks can be designed to replicate structures in the brain, allowing researchers and scientists to model specific brain functions more easily.

University of Calgary researchers have taken a new approach to using these networks for modelling of the human brain. Most studies, to date, have used deep neural networks to look at healthy brain function. These investigators wanted to know if these models could be applied to better understand brain function in a diseased brain. In this case, looking at posterior cortical atrophy (PCA), an atypical form of Alzheimer’s disease affecting the visual cortex.

“Using these artificial networks to model dementia could enable an improved understanding of the disease,” says Dr. Nils Forkert, PhD, an associate professor in the Cumming School of Medicine and principal investigator. “It allows us to have one well-established reference model that can be damaged in many different ways versus having to image hundreds of patients with different neurodegeneration patterns to obtain similar information.”

In the findings published in Frontiers in Neuroinformatics, Forkert, along with Dr. Anup Tuladhar, PhD, Dr. Zahinoor Ismail, MD, and PhD student Jasmine A. Moore used a standard neural network for automatic object recognition in images, titled VGG19, to simulate a brain with dementia symptoms. The researchers progressively damaged connections between neurons in the network, to mimic neurodegeneration in the visual system of the human brain.

Read the full story on the University of Calgary website

Monocytes to the rescue

Dr. Serge Rivest
Dr. Serge Rivest

Researchers show that these immune cells attack one of the main manifestations of Alzheimer’s disease

An article published in the journal Cell Reports by researchers from Université Laval reveals the existence of a natural mechanism to prevent one of the manifestations of Alzheimer’s in the brain. Using medical imaging techniques to view live events that occur in living mice with Alzheimer’s, researchers have discovered that a type of white blood cells – patrolling monocytes – selectively attack amyloid aggregates attached to the inner lining of blood vessels in the brain. Continue reading

Everything in moderation: excessive nerve cell pruning leads to disease

Dr. Phillip Barker
Dr. Phillip Barker

Mechanism meant to maintain efficiency of brain network involved in neurodegenerative disease

Scientists at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital-The Neuro, McGill University, have made important discoveries about a cellular process that occurs during normal brain development and may play an important role in neurodegenerative diseases. Continue reading

Major step toward an Alzheimer’s vaccine

Dr. Serge Rivest
Dr. Serge Rivest

A team of researchers from Université Laval, CHU de Québec, and pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has discovered a way to stimulate the brain’s natural defense mechanisms in people with Alzheimer’s disease.A team of researchers from Université Laval, CHU de Québec, and pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has discovered a way to stimulate the brain’s natural defense mechanisms in people with Alzheimer’s disease. Continue reading

Neuro researchers sharpen our understanding of memories

Jean-Claude Lacaille
May 2, 2012 – Scientists now have a better understanding of how precise memories are formed thanks to research led by Prof. Jean-Claude Lacaille of the University of Montreal’s Department of Physiology. “In terms of human applications, these findings could help us to better understand memory impairments in neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease,” Lacaille said. The study looks at the cells in our brains, or neurons, and how they work together as a group to form memories. Continue reading

Study Identifies a New Way Brain Cells Die in Alzheimer’s Disease – Will help lead researchers towards new treatments

Zamponi and Stys
Zamponi & Stys

A new study challenges conventional thinking about how brain cells die in Alzheimer’s disease. The findings demonstrate a previously unknown mechanism by which the cells die and will help lead researchers in new directions for treating the degenerative brain disease. The study by scientists at the University of Calgary’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute is published this week in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Continue reading