Can a new test predict Alzheimer’s in middle-age?

dementia.jpgA new study has revealed that apparently healthy adults can already have the brain lesions associated with Alzheimers.

The neurological decline that leads to Alzheimer’s disease may begin in middle-age and can be predicted with a simple to administer test.

The study, a collaboration between Professor David Bunce at Brunel University and a visiting professorial fellow at The Australian National University (ANU) – has revealed that some apparently healthy adults living in the community aged between 44 and 48 years have minute white matter lesions in areas of their brains similar to those found in persons with Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

A further breakthrough generated as part of this research has allowed scientists to more easily predict which individuals may develop these lesions.

The results suggest that the neurological decline thought to lead to the development of Alzheimer’s disease may begin much earlier in people’s lives than was originally thought.

“Although we cannot be certain that these middle-aged people will go on to get dementia, the results are important for several reasons,” said Professor Bunce.

“First, the study is one of the first to show that lesions in areas of the brain that deteriorate in dementia are present in some adults aged in their 40s.

“Second, although the presence of the lesions was confirmed through MRI scans, we were able to predict those persons who had them through very simple to administer tests.

“Finally, if the findings are repeated in laboratories elsewhere, the study lays open possibilities for screening, early detection and intervention in healthcare settings. The earlier we can intervene with people vulnerable to eventual dementia, the greater the chances of preventing or delaying the disease onset.”

The researchers’ paper, ‘Cognitive Deficits are associated with Frontal and Temporal Lobe White Matter Lesions in Middle-Aged Adults Living in the Community’ is published in the open-access journal PLoSONE (Public Library of Science-ONE).

A copy of the paper is available at http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0013567

MRI scans can spot Alzheimer’s before symptoms

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Miami: MRI scans can be used to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, even before the onset of symptoms of dementia, say researchers.

Alzheimer’s disease is currently diagnosed by a process of elimination as many other diseases cause similar symptoms, furthermore a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease cannot be confirmed until after the patient has died by autopsy.

However, results of a study by Ranjan Duara and colleagues at the Florida Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC) has added to a growing body of evidence which suggests that MRI scans of the brain can be used to diagnose the neurodegenerative disease.

The researchers used a visual rating system to evaluate the extent of atrophy, or shrinkage, present on MRI scans in three parts of the medial temporal lobe of the brain which are vital for conscious memory.

They then compared the MRI brain scans of 260 people, which included people with probable Alzheimer’s disease, people with varying degrees of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and a control group of normal elderly with no symptoms of memory loss.

Results showed that by using the rating system they could accurately distinguish those with probable Alzheimer’s disease from those with MCI, and from those in the control group. Furthermore, the scans even enabled the researchers to identify brain atrophy in some participants who did not have symptoms of memory loss at the start of the study, but who went on to develop memory problems several years later.

Thus suggesting that MRI scans could enable doctors to identify those who will get Alzheimer’s long before they become symptomatic.

¬ďThis study demonstrates that MRI brain scans are accurate enough to be clinically useful, both in diagnosing Alzheimer¬ís disease itself at an early stage and in identifying people at risk of developing Alzheimer¬ís,¬Ē said Huntington Potter, PhD director of the Florida ADRC.