Dopamine neuronal loss contributes to memory and reward dysfunction in a model of Alzheimer's disease

Stefano Puglisi Allegra, Department of Psychology
Life Sciences

An Italian study, published in Nature Communications, reports that the origins of Alzheimer's disease are not to be found in the area of the brain associated with memory, but are linked to the death of neurons in an area associated with mood disorders.

The study, conducted in collaboration between IRCCS Santa Lucia Foundation, University Campus Bio-medico, Sapienza University of Rome, University “Tor Vergata” and National Research Council (CNR) in Rome, focuses on the ventral tegmental area, where dopamine, a neurotransmitter linked to mood disorders, is produced.

At Sapienza University of Rome, professors Laura Petrosini, behavioral psycho-physiologist, and Stefano Puglisi-Allegra, scholar of brain dopamine systems, affirm that the findings could revolutionize the approach commonly taken in trying to find treatments for the widespread neurodegenerative disease.

In a domino effect, the death of neurons producing dopamine causes the non-arrival of this substance in the hippocampus and ventral striatum, causing the breakdown that generates memory loss and mood disorders.
The hypothesis was confirmed in the lab, administering two types of therapies to preclinical models aimed at restoring dopamine levels.

Further, our results might help to open up new perspectives in the early diagnosis and therapy of AD in which the previously neglected VTA has emerged as an important area that neuroimaging studies should examine.  


Team Leader
Stefano Puglisi Allegra
Dip. di Psicologia