People at risk of developing Alzheimers disease exhibit a specific structural change in the brain that can be visualized by brain imaging, according to new research presented at Neuroscience 2010, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the worlds largest source of emerging news about brain science and health. The findings may help identify those who would most benefit from early intervention.
Our findings support the notion that structural imaging techniques can be used to identify people at risk for developing Alzheimers disease, said Sarah George, a graduate student who co-authored the study with Leyla deToledo-Morrell, PhD, of Rush University Medical Center.
The researchers followed people with mild cognitive impairment, a condition that may be a precursor to Alzheimers disease and other forms of dementia. Some of the participants went on to develop Alzheimers disease, others did not.
The researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look for structural changes in the substantia innominata (SI), a region deep within the brain that sends chemical signals to the cerebral cortex, the brains outer layer that is largely responsible for reasoning, memory and other higher function tasks. Although no structural changes were found in the SI, the MRI showed a thinning of the cortical areas that receive input from the SI in those who went on to develop Alzheimers disease.
MRI screening appears to be a strong candidate for an early biomarker of Alzheimers disease, George said.
Research was supported by the National Institute on Aging and the Illinois Department of Public Health Regional Alzheimers Disease Assistance Center of Northeastern Illinois Grant.