Alzheimer’s disease An incurable brain disease that can cause confusion, mood changes and problems with memory, language, behavior and problem solving. No cause or cure is known.
amyloid-beta A protein fragment that can build to high levels in the brains of people who have Alzheimer’s disease. Over time, this material can lead to localized cell death.
cell The smallest structural and functional unit of an organism. Typically too small to see with the unaided eye, it consists of a watery fluid surrounded by a membrane or wall. Depending on their size, animals are made of anywhere from thousands to trillions of cells. Most organisms, such as yeasts, molds, bacteria and some algae, are composed of only one cell.
disorder (in medicine) A condition where the body does not work appropriately, leading to what might be viewed as an illness. This term can sometimes be used interchangeably with disease.
engineer A person who uses science to solve problems. As a verb, to engineer means to design a device, material or process that will solve some problem or unmet need.
impair (n. impairment) To damage or weaken in some way.
magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) An imaging technique to visualize soft, internal organs, like the brain, muscles, heart and cancerous tumors. MRI uses strong magnetic fields to record the activity of individual atoms.
nerve A long, delicate fiber that transmits signals across the body of an animal. An animal’s backbone contains many nerves, some of which control the movement of its legs or fins, and some of which convey sensations such as hot, cold or pain.
neuroscientist Someone who studies the structure or function of the brain and other parts of the nervous system.
nutrient A vitamin, mineral, fat, carbohydrate or protein that a plant, animal or other organism requires as part of its food in order to survive.
oxygen A gas that makes up about 21 percent of Earth’s atmosphere. All animals and many microorganisms need oxygen to fuel their growth (and metabolism).
protein A compound made from one or more long chains of amino acids. Proteins are an essential part of all living organisms. They form the basis of living cells, muscle and tissues; they also do the work inside of cells. Among the better-known, stand-alone proteins are the hemoglobin (in blood) and the antibodies (also in blood) that attempt to fight infections. Medicines frequently work by latching onto proteins.
REM A period of sleep that takes its name for the rapid eye movement, or REM, that occurs. People dream during REM sleep, but their bodies can’t move. In non-REM sleep, breathing and brain activity slow, but people can still move about.
spinal cord A cylindrical bundle of nerve fibers and associated tissue. It is enclosed in the spine and connects nearly all parts of the body to the brain, with which it forms the central nervous system.
toxic Poisonous or able to harm or kill cells, tissues or whole organisms. The measure of risk posed by such a poison is its toxicity.
tsunami One or many long, high sea waves caused by an earthquake, submarine landslide or other disturbance.
velocity The speed of something in a given direction.
waste Any materials that are left over from biological or other systems that have no value, so they can be disposed of as trash or recycled for some new use.
wave A disturbance or variation that travels through space and matter in a regular, oscillating fashion.