Journal of Physiology

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Calcium regulation of neural rhythms, memory and Alzheimer's disease

22 January 2014

Alzheimer's disease (AD) begins with a decline in cognition followed by neuronal cell death and dementia. These changes have been linked to a deregulation of Ca2+ signalling caused by a progressive increase in the resting level of Ca2+, which may influence cognition by interfering with the rhythm rheostat that controls the sleep/wake cycle. The rise in resting levels of Ca2+ may not alter the processes of memory acquisition during consciousness (gamma and theta rhythms), but may duplicate some of the events that occur during the slow oscillations responsible for the twin processes of memory consolidation and memory erasure that occur during sleep. The persistent elevation in the resting level of Ca2+ induced by an accumulation of amyloid β (Aβ) oligomers duplicates a similar small global elevation normally restricted to the period of slow oscillations when memories are erased during sleep. In AD, such a rapid erasure of memories soon after they are acquired during the wake period means that they are not retained for consolidation during sleep. The Aβ deregulates Ca2+ signalling through direct effects on the neurons and indirectly by inducing inflammatory responses in the microglia and astrocytes. Some of these deleterious effects of Aβ may be alleviated by vitamin D.