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Tijdschr Gerontol Geriatr. 2001 Feb;32(1):17-23.

[Increased activity of stress-regulating systems in Alzheimer disease].

[Article in Dutch]

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Vakgroep psychiatrie, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam/GGZ Buitenamstel, Valeriusplein 9, 1075 BG Amsterdam.


Behavioral, i.e. non-cognitive, disturbances, such as anxiety, agitation, sleep disturbances and depression occur in the majority of Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients, but their neurobiological basis is unknown. Disturbance of stress regulating systems, like the locus coeruleus, could play an important role. The locus coeruleus, the main production site of noradrenaline in the central nervous system, is involved in phenomena like attention, arousal and the response to the environment. In Alzheimer's disease, there is a marked reduction of noradrenergic neurons in the locus coeruleus. We studied the activity in the remaining locus coeruleus neurons and found an inverse relationship between the number of remaining neurons and the noradrenergic activity. This could indicate compensatory activity and loss of flexibility of this system. Clinically, the loss of flexibility could result in an impairment to focus attention and to respond to the environment. These results can be related to another stress related system, the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal-(HPA)axis. This means that further evaluation of both of these systems is necessary.

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