Chemical changes in brain cells caused by disturbances in the body’s day-night cycle may be a key underlying cause of the learning and memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a University of California, Irvine study.

The research on mice, led by UCI biomedical engineering professor Gregory Brewer, provides the first evidence that circadian rhythm-altering sleep disruptions similar to jet lag promote memory problems and chemical alterations in the brain.

Clinical application of this finding may lead to more emphasis on managing the sleep habits of people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease and those with mild cognitive impairment. Study results appear online in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

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