6 Things to Know about Neurofibrillary Tangles and Alzheimer's Disease

1) Neurofibrillary tangles- one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease, are twisted fibers composed mostly of the protein tau that are located in brain cells.

2) Research has shown that higher amounts of neurofibrillary tangles are correlated with more advanced dementia.

3) In neurofibrillary tangles, the tau proteins that normally bind to the microtubules (which assist in nutrient transportation) begin to separate from the microtubules and intertwine with each other.

(Thus, the name of "tangles." The microtubules then begin to collapse and this hinders the cells ability to communicate.

4) In order to officially diagnose Alzheimer's disease, neurofibrillary tangles (along with other changes such as extra deposits of beta amyloid protein) must be present in the brain. If neurofibrillary tangles are absent, a different type of dementia or another cause of cognitive impairment is considered when seeking a diagnosis.  

5) Some studies have demonstrated that neurofibrillary tangles first form near the hippocampus of people with Alzheimer's. The hippocampus is an area of the brain connected with memory, which often begins to decline in the early stages of Alzheimer's.

6) Scientists have found neurofibrillary tangles in people who have not been diagnosed with Alzheimer's but do have mild cognitive impairment.

The researchers suggest the possibility that the presence of tangles are associated with memory loss even in normal aging and in mild cognitive impairment.


Dementia SOS. Colorado's Dementia News and Resource Center. The plaques and tangles of Alzheimer’s. Accessed May 29, 2015. http://coloradodementia.org/2011/12/28/the-plaques-and-tangles-of-alzheimers/

European Neurology. 1998 Oct;40(3):130-40. Neurofibrillary tangles and Alzheimer's disease. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9748670

JAMA Neurology. May 1, 2003, Vol 60, No. 5. Neurofibrillary Tangles, Amyloid, and Memory in Aging and Mild Cognitive Impairment. http://archneur.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=784153

Memory Loss & the Brain. Glossary: Neurofibrillary Tangles. Accessed May 29, 2015. http://www.memorylossonline.com/glossary/neurofibrillarytangles.html

National Institute on Aging. Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center. January 22, 2015. Alzheimer's Disease: Unraveling the Mystery. The Hallmarks of AD.http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/part-2-what-happens-brain-ad/hallmarks-ad

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