Older adults appear more easily distracted by irrelevant information than younger people when they experience stress or powerful emotions — and a specific network in the brain recently identified as the epicenter for Alzheimer’s and dementia may be to blame.
Previous research led by Mather, director of the USC Emotion and Cognition Laboratory, has highlighted the locus coeruleus and its roles in cognition and memory. Currently, Mather is focused on studying how locus coeruleus function changes during aging and Alzheimer’s disease.
The locus coeruleus appears to be one of the earliest sites of tau pathology, the tangles that are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. An estimated 5.7 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, which is the nation’s the sixth-leading cause of death.
“Initial signs of this pathology are evident in the locus coeruleus in most people by age 30,” Mather said. “Thus, it is critical to better understand how locus coeruleus function changes as we age.”
Mather is among more than 70 researchers at USC who focus their research on the prevention, treatment and potential cure of Alzheimer’s disease.