Alzheimer’s Causes & Human Brain Animation: Amyloids

Zoom into the human brain and search the neuron forest for causes of Alzheimer’s disease. Learn about research into treatment options. Explore The Emergent Universe, an online interactive science museum about emergence.

Zoom In & Search for a Cure

You’re a medical researcher facing a growing epidemic. More than 5 million people* are suffering from a fatal illness that robs them of their memories and their minds. And every 71 seconds* someone else will develop this devastating disease: Alzheimer’s.

Over the last 2 decades research conducted across many disciplines, from epidemiology to physics, has dramatically expanded our understanding of this protein aggregation disease, providing hope that a cure can be found.

But time is short!

Zoom into the brain to join the search for a cure!

*US statistics, 2008

What’s Emergence Got to Do with It?

What causes proteins that exist in all of us to behave like renegades in some of us, forming aggregates and causing diseases like Alzheimer’s? Figuring out how the interactions between these proteins generate renegade behavior is a problem in emergence, and solving such emergent problems requires a transdisciplinary approach.

Understanding Alzheimer’s has required combining knowledge from many areas, from epidemiology, which uncovered forms of Alzheimer’s that run in families, and genetics, which identified the rogue genes in those families and the proteins affected by those genes, to physical chemistry, which is revealing the structure and aggregation behavior of these proteins.

Component parts – proteins
Emergent phenomenon – amyloid fibrils
Overall Emergent phenomenon – amyloid disease pathology


About the Brain

PBS web features for The Secret Life of the Brain, including a 3D tour of the brain (requires shockwave plug-in):

Brain basics:

Online illustrated dictionary of components of the brain:

Introduction to the brain and neurology: M. F. Bear, B. W. Connors, M. A. Paradiso, Neuroscience (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore, MD, 2001).

Alzheimer’s and the Brain

A good overview introduction to Alzheimer’s brain chemistry and proposed treatment avenues: M. S. Wolfe, Shutting down Alzheimer's, Sci. Am. 294, 72–79 (2006).

A slide show introduction to the brain and how it’s affected by Alzheimer’s:

HBO’s 4-part documentary film is available on their very comprehensive website, which includes supplementary articles and videos about recent research into Alzheimer’s:

An accompanying book also explains Alzheimer’s research in non-technical language: J. Hoffman, S. Froemke, S. K. Golant, The Alzheimer's Project: Momentum in Science (BBS/Public Affairs, NY, 2009).

An overview covering everything from the basic workings of the healthy brain to brain changes in Alzheimer’s, and current treatments: Alzheimer’s Disease: Unraveling the Mystery (National Institute on Aging, 2008),

Videos showing average brain cell loss in Alzheimer’s individuals over a 2 year period:

Current Alzheimer’s Research

Science Daily’s compendium of the most recent research about Alzheimer’s:

More Technical Resources

A research forum that reports on the latest scientific findings about Alzheimer’s and promotes discussion and debate amongst researchers:

Scientific review of the history of Alzheimer’s research from 1898 though 2006: J. Hardy, A hundred years of Alzheimer’s disease research, Neuron 52, 3-13 (2006).

Scientific review of the Amyloid Beta cascade hypothesis: R. Roychaudhuri, M. Yang, M. M. Hoshi, D. B. Teplow, Amyloid protein assembly and Alzheimer disease, J. Bio. Chem. 284, 4749-4753 (2009),

Scientific review of proposed treatment avenues based on the Amyloid Beta cascade hypothesis, 2008: G. Yahim, K. Ono, M. Inayathulla, D. B. Teplow, Amyloid Beta-Protein assembly as a therapeutic target of Alzheimer's disease, Curr. Pharm. Des. 14, 3231-46 (2008),

A research study investigating the pattern of neuronal damage in Alzheimer’s: H. Braak, et al., Pattern of brain destruction in Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, J. Neural. Transm. 103, 455-490 (1996).

Search Terms

Alzheimer’s, ABeta, ABeta42, Amyloid Beta, amyloid plaques, tau tangles, Alzheimer’s research, Alzheimer’s AND genetic, Alzheimer’s AND tau, Alzheimer’s AND plaques, Alzheimer’s AND tangles, Alzheimer’s brain

Join the Discussion in Our Forums

Searching for an Alzheimer’s Cure - The EmergentMatters Forum