A key protein has been discovered which could improve the understanding of conditions including dementia, stroke and multiple sclerosis.
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh say that protein Nfasc186 is essential for maintaining the health of nerve fibres that control the transmission of messages in the brain.
In neurodegenerative diseases, electrical impulses from the brain controlled by these fibres are disrupted.
Professor Peter Brophy from the university said: "Knowing more about how signals in the brain work will help us better understand neurodegenerative disorders and why, when these illnesses strike, the brain can no longer send signals to parts of the body."
Meanwhile, drinking coffee regularly could lower the risk of stroke in women, according to research published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.
It was found that women who drank little or no coffee had a 22 to 25 per cent higher chance of experiencing a stroke compared to those who regularly consumed the beverage.