A noisy effect on brain health

Britt Donahue –Photo Editor

In 2017 Alzheimer’s disease was the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. An estimated 5.7 million Americans are currently living with the disease. Currently, there is no cure.  

This issue is personal for me, as it is for many people in our country. My best friend’s mother, an amazing woman who was loving and supportive to me all through my teenage years, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about four years ago. Watching her memory continue to fail her and her quality of life decline has been heartbreaking.

Scientists are unsure of the exact causes of Alzheimer’s, apart from aging and possibly genetics as risk factors, but a recent study out of China may point to another possible answer: chronic noise exposure.

The team of scientists studied the effect of gut bacteria on cognition, and whether or not noise could have long-term effects on the gut microbiome and the brain by using genetically modified mice that are prone to accelerated aging. They had an interest specifically in the gut’s effect on the brain. In order to test their theories, the scientists trained the mice for a variety of spatial and memory tasks before exposing different control groups to varying volumes of noise.

They found that the mice who were older and exposed to higher volumes performed their tasks more slowly, and had reduced levels of two chemical messengers which are produced by friendly gut bacteria and are essential for maintaining the brain’s cognitive function. The changes in the guts microbial makeup also led to a deterioration in the gut lining itself.

More research is required before these findings can be confirmed and applied to humans, but researches are hopeful that this will lead to a deeper understanding of this disease and the ways risk factors can be mitigated.