The researchers analyzed the data collected from the Rush Memory and Aging Project, a study with around 1,000 participants aged 65 and up and were followed up until their death. At this point, the deceased participant’s brains were donated for research.
Results of the data analysis showed that elderly people and those with Alzheimer’s disease show a substantial decline of brain cells called ventrolateral preoptic neurons. This loss is also associated with sleep problems.
Sleep loss is associated with a host of other health problems, including issues with memory and cognitive ability. It is also linked with increased blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and vascular disease risk. Researchers say that the loss of the said neurons may be a contributing factor to these various disorders as people age.
According to Dr. Clifford Saper, chairman of neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, “These findings provide the first evidence that the ventrolateral preoptic nucleus in humans probably plays a key role in causing sleep, and functions in a similar way to other species that have been studied.”
The researchers add that the loss of these neurons may be a reason why the elderly experience increased sleep disruptions as they age.
Source: Everyday Health