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Aging in the News: “The brain may clean out Alzheimer’s plaques during sleep”   

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From ScienceNews magazine, new neuroscience research have recently come about about the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, specifically sleep. Patients with Alzheimers have difficulty sleeping as well as build up of amyloid-beta protein. Although the research on the effects of sleep deprivation is new, Dr. Barbara Bendlin (neuroscientist) found that those who had poor sleep (lower than the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep) had an increase in amyloid-beta protein in the brain. The research hypothesized that sleep deprivation could be an indicator or risk factor for “cognitive problems, including Alzheimer’s (Beil). Other neuroscientists study the effects of sleep deprivation, such as Dr. David Holtzman who studies amyloid build up that could lead to Alzheimer’s disease in mice brains. The difficulty of Alzheimer research is that changes in the brain in humans develop slowly in a lifetime (decades) and the ethical implications of depriving sleep for long periods of time in sleep studies.

Key Finding 

In Figure 1B, a sleep study was done at the “Clinical Center at the NIH (Shokri-Kojori, 4483)”. Participants were asked to have a well rested night as the baseline and a sleep deprived night. Scientists then recorded the amount of 18F-florbetaben levels that “bind to insoluble Aβ42 plaques Shokri-Kojori, 4483)”. The red lines in Figure 1B represent 18F-florbetaben levels in females from a night of restful sleep to one night of sleep deprivation (awake for 31 hours) . The blue lines indicate males. There was an increase in FBB SUVr for both males and females. An increase in FBB SUVr after a sleep deprived night showed a increased change in negative moods and increase in Aβ42 levels, which could be “a risk factor in Alzheimer’s disease (Shokri-Kojori, 4483)”. A few things to note: FBB SUVr stands for 18F-florbetaben relative standard uptake (radiotracers), RW stands for rested-wakefulness, and SD stands for chronic sleep deprivation.

Reason for Choosing this Article

Among hundreds of potential articles, I originally picked this one because it was the most interesting. After diving into the research on the effects of sleep as we age, I learned about the impact of quality of sleep. It was interesting to learn that people living with Alzheimer’s disease had disruptive sleep and how difficult it was to form and process memories. Relating to my personal life, I realized how difficult it was to focus on tasks and the mental fatigue after sleeping for only 3-4 hours that night before. What drew me in at first on this topic was that the U.S. alone has a high rate of those sleep deprived and the effects of overusing coffee and other medications to stay awake. Not only does sleep impact how well our memory is as we age, I also wondered the impact of sleep deprivation and car accidents. It’s illegal to drive under the influence of drugs/alcohol but there’s no consequence (legally) driving while sleep deprived (but I digress). Although the field of research that hypothesizes the link between sleep deprivation and Alzheimers, I wonder if the quality of sleep could be the future indicator for aging diseases.  

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