Brains of older people with Alzheimer’s disease show characteristic abnormal clusters of faulty protein called amyloid. Now, for the first time, scientists have discovered amyloid can begin to accumulate in the brains of people as young as 20. The finding is surprising because it was thought amyloid only began to accumulate later in life.

The researchers, from Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, report their findings in the journal Brain.

In their study, Prof. Changiz Geula and colleagues examined a specific group of brain cells known as basal forebrain cholinergic neurons. These brain cells are closely involved in memory and attention and are among the first to die in normal aging and in Alzheimer’s disease.

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