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Brain scans give hope for early Alzheimer's detection

Published on 22 December 2011 11:00 AM

Patients could discover if they are at risk from developing Alzheimer's disease years before they start displaying symptoms, a study has suggested.

A study has suggested that some day, brain scans might help to identify people who may go on to develop Alzheimer's.

Doctors could use brain scans to identify at-risk patients after researchers in the US concluded that those people with thinner regions of the brain's cerebral cortex are more likely to develop early-stage dementia.

The scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of Pennsylvania analysed the MRI scans of the brains of 159 older people. Three years later, the researchers analysed test results of 125 of those volunteers and discovered that more than a fifth (21%) with thinner cerebral cortex showed signs of mental decline.

However, just 7% of people with average cortex thickness displayed signs of mental decline, while those with above-average cortex thickness showed no signs of mental deterioration.

Examination of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples was more telling. The researchers took samples from 84 participants after three years and discovered that 60% of people with a thinner cortex had abnormal CSF amyloid levels, similar to those of Alzheimer's patients. Their findings were published in the journal Neurology.

Dr Simon Ridley, from the charity Alzheimer's Research UK, said: 'The ability to predict who will develop Alzheimer's disease is a key target for dementia research, as it would allow new treatments to be trialled early, when they are more likely to be effective.

'These findings add weight to existing evidence that Alzheimer's begins long before symptoms appear, although it's important to note that the study did not assess who went on to develop the disease.'

Copyright Press Association 2011

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Last updated: Dec 05 2018

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