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Key features of Alzheimer's, which affects about 5 million Americans, are wholesale loss of synapses -- contact points via which nerve cells relay signals to one another -- and a parallel deterioration in brain function, notably in the ability to remember. Now research by Carla Shatz, PhD, professor of neurobiology and of biology and senior author of a study that will be published Sept. 20 in Science,,  suggests that Alzheimer's disease starts to manifest long before plaque formation becomes evident