Lack of brain shrinkage may help predict who develops dementia with Lewy bodies

November 2, 2016, Mayo Clinic

Dementia with Lewy bodies is a progressive disease that causes hallucinations, decline in mental abilities, rigid muscles, slow movement and tremors. With symptoms similar to Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease, a correct diagnosis can be difficult.

A new study published today in the online issue of Neurology, a medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, shows that a lack of shrinkage in the area of the brain called the hippocampus may be a sign that people with thinking and memory problems may develop dementia with Lewy bodies rather than Alzheimer's disease. Atrophy of the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for thinking and memory, is an early sign of Alzheimer's disease.

"Identifying people with mild cognitive impairment at risk for dementia with Lewy bodies is critical for early interventions," says the study's lead author Kejal Kantarci, M.D., a Mayo Clinic radiologist. "Early diagnosis helps target appropriate treatments, including what medications not to give. For example, as many as 50 percent of people with Lewy body disease have severe reactions to antipsychotic drugs."

Lewy bodies are protein deposits that develop in nerve cells in regions of the brain involved in thinking, memory and movement.

In the study, 160 people with had brain MRI scans to measure hippocampus size. They also had yearly tests for an average of two years. During that time, 61 people, or 38 percent, developed Alzheimer's disease, and 20 people, or 13 percent, progressed to probable dementia with Lewy bodies. Because Lewy body disease can be diagnosed only by an autopsy after death, it is called probable dementia with Lewy bodies. The researchers note that their results should be confirmed with studies that use autopsies for final diagnoses.

The people who had no shrinkage in the hippocampus were 5.8 times more likely to develop probable dementia with Lewy bodies than those who had hippocampal atrophy. Seventeen of 20, or 85 percent, of people who developed dementia with Lewy bodies had a normal hippocampus volume; whereas, 37 of the 61, or 61 percent, of people who developed Alzheimer's disease had hippocampus atrophy.

The relationship of hippocampus volume and disease was stronger among people without memory issues. Dementia with Lewy bodies does not always affect memory. Affected thinking skills usually include attention, problem-solving and interpreting visual information.

Explore further: Trial helps doctors tell Lewy body dementia from Alzheimer's, Parkinson's

Related Stories

Trial helps doctors tell Lewy body dementia from Alzheimer's, Parkinson's

September 21, 2016
Knowing that many clinicians find it difficult to correctly diagnose patients with Lewy body dementia, researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center set out to develop a clinical profile for these patients. ...

Acting out dreams linked to development of dementia, study finds

March 21, 2013
The strongest predictor of whether a man is developing dementia with Lewy bodies—the second most common form of dementia in the elderly—is whether he acts out his dreams while sleeping, Mayo Clinic researchers have discovered. ...

What is Lewy body dementia, which robbed robin williams of his sanity?

November 20, 2015
Oscar-winning actor and comedian Robin Williams died in August 2014 of suicide. His death was not due to substance abuse or suicidal tendencies, as some had speculated in the media. Williams' wife, Susan, told ABC's "Good ...

Researchers identify tissue biomarker for dementia with lewy bodies and Parkinson's disease

April 11, 2016
Accurate diagnosis of Parkinson's disease, and the related disease "dementia with Lewy bodies," can be difficult in the early stages of both conditions. While brain biopsies can be more accurate, the risk of complications ...

Alzheimer's may affect the brain differently in African-Americans than European-Americans

July 15, 2015
Alzheimer's disease may cause different changes in the brain, or pathologies, in African-Americans than in white Americans of European descent, according to a study published in the July 15, 2015, online issue of the medical ...

Recommended for you

Rate of dementia on the decline—but beware of growing numbers

April 17, 2018
The good news? The rate of older Americans with dementia is on the decline.

Research offers potential insight into Alzheimer's disease

April 16, 2018
Slightly elevated beta-amyloid levels in the brain are associated with increased activity in certain brain regions, according to a new study from the Center for Vital Longevity (CVL) at The University of Texas at Dallas.

Americans with a college education live longer without dementia and Alzheimer's

April 16, 2018
Education gives people an edge in their later years, helping them to keep dementia at bay and their memories intact, a new USC-led study has found.

Evidence mounts for Alzheimer's, suicide risks among youth in polluted cities

April 13, 2018
A University of Montana researcher and her collaborators have published a new study that reveals increased risks for Alzheimer's and suicide among children and young adults living in polluted megacities.

Improving brain function in Alzheimer's disease mouse model

April 11, 2018
Using two complementary approaches to reduce the deposits of amyloid-beta in the brain rather than either approach alone improved spatial navigation and memory in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease. These findings suggest ...

Sleepless nights show ties to Alzheimer's risk

April 10, 2018
Even one night of lost sleep may cause the brain to fill with protein chunks that have long been linked to the development of Alzheimer's disease, a new study warns.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.