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

November 2, 2016

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

Lifestyle changes to stave off Alzheimer's? Hints, no proof

July 20, 2017
There are no proven ways to stave off Alzheimer's, but a new report raises the prospect that avoiding nine key risks starting in childhood just might delay or even prevent about a third of dementia cases around the world.

Steering an enzyme's 'scissors' shows potential for stopping Alzheimer's disease

July 19, 2017
The old real estate adage about "location, location, location" might also apply to the biochemical genesis of Alzheimer's disease, according to new research from the University of British Columbia.

Brain scans may change care for some people with memory loss

July 19, 2017
Does it really take an expensive brain scan to diagnose Alzheimer's? Not everybody needs one but new research suggests that for a surprising number of patients whose memory problems are hard to pin down, PET scans may lead ...

Can poor sleep boost odds for Alzheimer's?

July 18, 2017
(HealthDay)— Breathing problems during sleep may signal an increased risk for Alzheimer's disease, a trio of studies suggests.

Hearing is believing: Speech may be a clue to mental decline

July 17, 2017
Your speech may, um, help reveal if you're uh ... developing thinking problems. More pauses, filler words and other verbal changes might be an early sign of mental decline, which can lead to Alzheimer's disease, a study suggests.

Bacteria found in Alzheimer's brains

July 17, 2017
Researchers in the UK have used DNA sequencing to examine bacteria in post-mortem brains from patients with Alzheimer's disease. Their findings suggest increased bacterial populations and different proportions of specific ...

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.