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Sleep and Alzheimer’s disease are linked, UC Berkeley study finds


With more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease, for which there is currently no treatment, UC Berkeley researchers have found that one preventative defense against the disease is deep sleep, according to a study published Sept. 3.

Using positron emission tomography scans, or PET scans, and electroencephalogram, or EEG, sleep recordings, campus neuroscientists and co-authors Matthew Walker and Joseph Winer were able to pinpoint to an extent when Alzheimer’s is most likely to strike in someone’s life.

For the study, researchers recruited participants from the Berkeley Aging Cohort Study, a longitudinal study of healthy aging, according to Winer. Participants then slept overnight in the lab while an EEG recorded their brain activity.

“Each participant also received multiple PET scans, assessing amyloid burden, over the years following the study,” Winer said in an email. “This design allowed us to ask whether sleep quality at baseline was associated with subsequent changes in amyloid plaque levels in the brain.”

PET imaging and sleep EEG recordings allowed the researchers to take a closer look at the proteins involved in Alzheimer’s disease in the brains of healthy individuals, according to Winer. The combination of the two enabled the researchers to assess how sleep physiology differs based on the progression of Alzheimer’s disease years before symptoms begin appearing in individuals.

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