Researchers discover small nerve cell changes in early dementia

Researchers have discovered some of the earliest changes that happen to brain cells in mice that show signs of frontotemporal dementia.

The researchers from the University of Bristol’s School of Physiology, Pharmacology and Neuroscience researchers findings, published in the journal Cell Reports, suggest that the condition appears to affect the stability of synapses – important connections between nerve cells. Understanding the earliest changes in nerve cells could be an important step in finding potential ways to prevent or slow down the condition. 

Dr Clare Walton, Research  Manager at Alzheimer’s Society, said:

'We are understanding more about how dementia affects the brain every day, and, crucially, we’re starting to discover what’s happening in the earliest stages of the condition.

'Using cutting-edge technology the researchers have identified one of the earliest signs of damage to nerve cells in frontotemporal dementia - a type of dementia which can affect behaviour and language. But as the study used mice there are still unanswered questions – do the synapse changes seen in mice also happen in people, do they occur in other forms of dementia, and can targeting these early nerve cell changes help us in the search for potential new treatments?'