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Non-protein amino acids and neurodegeneration: the enemy within - PubMed

Animals, in common with plants and microorganisms, synthesise proteins from a pool of 20 protein amino acids (plus selenocysteine and pyrolysine) (Hendrickson et al., 2004). This represents a small proportion (~2%) of the total number of amino acids known to exist in nature (Bell, 2003). Many 'non-protein' amino acids are synthesised by plants, and in some cases constitute part of their chemical armoury against pathogens, predators or other species competing for the same resources (Fowden et al., 1967). Microorganisms can also use selectively toxic amino acids to gain advantage over competing organisms (Nunn et al., 2010). Since non-protein amino acids (and imino acids) are present in legumes, fruits, seeds and nuts, they are ubiquitous in the diets of human populations around the world. Toxicity to humans is unlikely to have been the selective force for their evolution, but they have the clear potential to adversely affect human health. In this review we explore the links between exposure to non-protein amino acids and neurodegenerative disorders in humans. Environmental factors play a major role in these complex disorders which are predominantly sporadic (Coppede et al., 2006). The discovery of new genes associated with neurodegenerative diseases, many of which code for aggregation-prone proteins, continues at a spectacular pace but little progress is being made in identifying the environmental factors that impact on these disorders. We make the case that insidious entry of non-protein amino acids into the human food chain and their incorporation into protein might be contributing significantly to neurodegenerative damage.

How a symptom of dementia informs our understanding of creativity

As her dementia started, she began dedicating a lot of her time to art. Her artistic talents weren’t new, as she had crafted intricate miniature dolls to display and sell at craft fairs and galleries before her diagnosis. But she had stopped making dolls, and showed an entirely new interest in painting — regardless of whether a canvas was available. After the antique sewing table makeover mishap, Spence-Berthiaume stocked her mother up with proper art supplies and let her imagination run free. “It was an obsession. It filled her day, the painting,” Spence-Berthiaume said. In her dementia, Spence would spend most of her waking hours putting paint brush to canvas — painting the beach she lived by, plants and animals, and portraits of herself and loved ones — all with a vibrant, two-dimensional charm. Spence experienced a rare phenomenon in FTD that causes patients to become heavily preoccupied with their visual surroundings. If their brain wiring is just right, they turn to art — be it painting, music, dance, or design — to express these newfound fascinations.

This Common Device Can Slow Cognitive Decline, Trial Shows | MedPage Today

Numerous studies have linked hearing loss with future dementia risk, but the nature of that association, and particularly whether it was causal, has not been clear. In the Lancet paper, Lin and colleagues explained that several theories have been advanced for how hearing loss might exacerbate cognitive decline: coping with it might increase a person's "cognitive load," alter brain structure, and/or discourage "engagement in social and cognitively stimulating activities."

Alzheimer’s: Inflammatory markers are conspicuous at an early stage: Evidence of damage and also neuroprotective processes long before symptoms of dementia manifest -- ScienceDaily

n recent years, it has become evident that the brain's immune system and related inflammatory processes -- also known as "neuroinflammation" -- significantly contribute to the development of Alzheimer's disease. In view of this, the scientists analyzed various immunological biomarkers that are characterized by good detectability in the cerebrospinal fluid and reproducible results. "It was already known that these markers indicate immune processes in the context of Alzheimer's disease. However, how these markers relate to brain volume, cognitive performance and other parameters had not been studied as comprehensively as we have now," explains Prof. Michael Heneka, who led the current study during his long-time tenure at DZNE and UKB. Since the beginning of this year, he has been director of the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine. "We have found that some of these inflammatory markers are conspicuous even when there are no symptoms of dementia yet," Heneka says. "Based on the data we have so far, we can't specify the lead time at this point. But my estimate is that it is at least ten to twenty years."

Exercise alters brain chemistry to protect aging synapses: Enhanced nerve transmission seen in older adults who remained active -- ScienceDaily

Honer and Casaletto found that elderly people who remained active had higher levels of proteins that facilitate the exchange of information between neurons. This result dovetailed with Honer's earlier finding that people who had more of these proteins in their brains when they died were better able to maintain their cognition late in life. To their surprise, Honer said, the researchers found that the effects ranged beyond the hippocampus, the brain's seat of memory, to encompass other brain regions associated with cognitive function. "It may be that physical activity exerts a global sustaining effect, supporting and stimulating healthy function of proteins that facilitate synaptic transmission throughout the brain," Honer said.