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Disoriented Alzheimer’s

June 20, 2018

Research into the brain’s compass may help diagnose and treat Alzheimer’s disease.



Alzheimer’s and navigation. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Our brains have neurons called head direction cells that let us orient ourselves against a background of fixed objects, like furniture and buildings. University of New Mexico behavioral neuroscientist Benjamin Clark thinks that these cells are impaired by Alzheimer’s disease. With a grant from the National Science Foundation, Clark and his colleagues are studying rats with a disease that models Alzheimer’s.  

BENJAMIN CLARK (University of New Mexico):

What we’re thinking actually is that over time this signal becomes uncoupled with the external world, so it tends to drift, if you will. And this could explain why patients with Alzheimer’s disease become disoriented when they enter familiar environments.


Clark’s looking to see if doctors can use these cells to help diagnose Alzheimer’s earlier, and how the function of impaired head direction cells might be restored.  I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.

Story by Bob Hirshon