[A version of this item appears in: Dementia: the Latest Evidence Newsletter (RWHT), Volume 1 Issue 10, May 2011].
MRI brain scans may indicate potential Alzheimer’s Disease years before symptoms appear, according to results from a small study on sixty-five patients published in Neurology. Parts of some patients’ brains show signs of shrinkage up to a decade before Alzheimer’s becomes evident as a symptomatic disease.
The regions of the brain showing thinning in Alzheimer’s Disease are the medial temporal lobe, the temporal pole and the superior frontal gyrus. This cohort study showed that 55% of the people with low thickness within the Alzheimer’s Disease “signature regions” developed the disease, compared with 20% of those with average thickness and none of those with high thickness. A reduction of one standard deviation in the thickness of the Alzheimer’s Disease signature areas of cortex was associated with a 3.4 times greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s during follow-up.
Changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease begin years before symptoms appear. Alzheimer’s Research UK thinks there is strong evidence that the disease starts to develop in mid-life. Earlier diagnosis of the disease may help in providing more effective treatment in future. One in 14 people over the age of 65 in the UK has Alzheimer’s Disease.
This small study needs to be expanded and confirmed in order to determine the accuracy of this method for predicting Alzheimer’s Disease.
Gallagher, J. (2011). Brain scans show Alzheimer’s risk. London: BBC Health News, April 14th 2011.
Brain scans may detect future Alzheimer’s. London: NHS Choices, April 14th 2011.
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Dickerson, BC. Stoub, TR. [and] Shah, RC. [et al] (2011). Alzheimer-signature MRI biomarker predicts AD dementia in cognitively normal adults. Neurology, April 13th 2011, Vol.76(16), pp.1395-402. (Click here to view the PubMed abstract).