Alzheimer’s Shocker: Subtle Sign Your Brain Is Already Damaged

Do you love to take a siesta during the day? You might want to get checked since napping has been found linked to Alzheimer's disease.

A new study, published in the journal Alzheimer's and Dementia, suggested that frequent naps can be an early sign of the condition. Researchers found that during the development of Alzheimer's disease, certain areas of the brain involved in daytime wakefulness are affected.

The team associated the damage with a protein called tau. Previous studies also suggested tau contributes to Alzheimer's risk. 

"Our work shows definitive evidence that the brain areas promoting wakefulness degenerate due to accumulation of tau -- not amyloid protein -- from the very earliest stages of the disease," Lea Grinberg, senior study author and an associate professor at the Memory and Aging Center at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), said.

For the study, Grinberg and her team examined the activities in the brains of 13 patients with Alzheimer's disease and seven other people without the condition. They found that the wakefulness-promoting regions in the brain are among the first areas to be damaged by the disease, WebMD reported Monday.  

The researchers said the patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease had significant tau buildup in their brains, particularly in the regions that play a role in keeping them awake during the day. The same areas also lost 75 percent of their neurons. 

The findings suggested that the more often an individual takes naps may indicate the development of Alzheimer's. 

"It's remarkable because it's not just a single brain nucleus that's degenerating, but the whole wakefulness-promoting network,” Jun Oh, study lead author and a research associate at Grinberg’s lab, said. “Crucially, this means that the brain has no way to compensate because all of these functionally related cell types are being destroyed at the same time."

The researchers said their study also suggested tau buildup has more contribution during Alzheimer's development than previously studied. Grinberg noted there is a growing body of work proving tau can be a direct cause of mental decline.

However, more research is needed to understand how the protein affects the brain and how the disease directly affects the wakefulness-promoting brain regions, according to Oh.

Woman Frequent naps during the day can be an early sign of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to study. Pixabay