Researchers at North Carolina State University (NCSU) have discovered that senior dogs with cognitive decline experience disruptions similar to those found in people with Alzheimer’s disease. This study suggests that dogs could provide a good model for research on Alzheimer’s.
The researchers recorded the brain waves of 28 senior dogs, some with cognitive decline and some without, while they napped. Interestingly, dogs with signs of dementia showed stronger beta wave activity while napping, which is linked to wakefulness. This means that their brains were not entirely asleep. Additionally, dogs with signs of dementia seemed to experience a significant loss in slow-wave sleep, which is characteristic of deep sleep and linked to the activity of the glymphatic system. This system removes protein waste products from the cerebrospinal fluid, and a reduction in slow oscillations in people with Alzheimer’s has been associated with poorer memory consolidation during deep sleep.
Older pets with cognitive decline tend to suffer more from sleep difficulties and daytime sleepiness. It is still uncertain whether these sleep disturbances are triggering cognitive decline or if cognitive decline is causing the sleep disturbances. The researchers suspect it is a bit of both.
Researchers plan to monitor this vicious cycle in younger dogs as they age to search for early markers of cognitive decline in pets that could also be relevant to their owners. This could lead to therapeutic trials in dogs that help to direct the development of treatments for people.
The study provides valuable insights into dementia and the importance of sleep patterns in cognitive decline.