A team of Australian researchers has discovered an early warning sign for Alzheimer's.
The new research, conducted in partnership between the CSIRO and the Queensland government, suggests that the sign is evident in the brain years before the disease causes any cognitive decline.
The researchers have mapped the presence of amyloid-beta "plaques" in the brain, which are known to accumulate alongside the development of the degenerative condition.
Until now, it was not known whether this plaque was toxic and contributed to Alzheimer's disease or whether it was coincidental.
Dr Olivier Salvado and his research colleagues found when the plaque was located in a particular spot in the brain it could cause damage to the hippocampus, which plays a key role in memory functioning.
"We found when there is plaque in this inferior temporal cortex then the hippocampus gets atrophied," News.com.au quoted Salvado as saying.
It is believed that the plaque disrupts connections with the hippocampus, causing its neurons to die.
The new discovery reveals one mechanism by which Alzheimer's disease could unfold within the brain plus a possible way to spot it early.
The research has been published in the journal Neurology.