Alzheimer's symptoms can develop overnight

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Amyloid plaques, precursors of Alzheimer's disease, can develop in the brain in as little as 24 hours, much "more rapidly than expected," say researchers at the Alzheimer's Unit at the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease.

Using lab mice bred specifically to develop amyloid plaque, researchers analyzed microscopic imaging of the brain. Images were first taken weekly, then daily, and used to chart the development of the plaque. The image analysis also showed that brain-cell damage associated with Alzheimer's can occur within days after the formation of amyloid plaque.

"Knowing that plaque occurs quickly implies that something initiates it," said Dr. Bradley Hyman, the study's group leader. "That is the next question to be answered."