Alzheimer's Disease

Frequently Asked Questions

7. What changes in the brain happen to people with Alzheimer's disease?

Inside the Brain: Unraveling the Mystery of Alzheimer's Disease Inside the Brain: Unraveling the Mystery of Alzheimer's Disease - opens in new window
Video length: 4 min 21 sec
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Although we still don’t know how Alzheimer’s disease begins, it seems likely that damage to the brain starts 10 years or more before problems become obvious. During the earliest stage of Alzheimer’s, people are free of symptoms, but harmful changes are taking place in the brain. Abnormal protein deposits form amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain. Once-healthy nerve cells lose their ability to function and communicate with each other, and eventually they die.

As nerve cells in the brain die, parts of the brain begin to shrink. By the final stage of Alzheimer’s, damage is widespread, and brain tissue has shrunk significantly.