A new study by dr. Whitney Freeze and others looked at the relationship between changes in cerebral small vessel disease and a part of the brain stem called the locus coeruleus (LC). Cerebral small vessel disease is an umbrella term for conditions affecting the brain’s blood vessels such as cerebral amyloid angiopathy and atheriolosclerosis, as both can damage small arteries. These vascular pathologies can contribute to Alzheimer’s dementia.

The researchers used brain tissue from deceased individuals who were enrolled in two large dementia studies in the United States. They found that pigmentation changes in the LC were associated with an increased likelihood of small vessel disease, independent of other factors accompanying Alzheimer’s disease. This suggests that changes in the LC may contribute to the development of small vessel disease and later Alzheimer’s disease.

The study could potentially open up new avenues for research into the prevention and treatment of cerebral small vessel disease. Further studies on the LC-norepinephrine system and its effects on cerebrovascular health are warranted to better understand these relationships.

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