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Combining brain imaging, genetic analysis may help identify people at early risk of Alzheimer's
Date:2/8/2011

For Immediate Release February 8, 2011 - (Toronto) A new study from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has found evidence suggesting that a variation of a specific gene may play a role in late-onset Alzheimer's, the disease which accounts for over 90% of Alzheimer's cases. This innovative study has combined genetics and brain imaging to determine who may be at risk for developing late-onset Alzheimer's disease long before symptoms appear.

The gene, which is called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), is crucial to maintaining healthy function of the brain, primarily the brain's memory centre of the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex, and is responsible for learning and memory function. Past research has found that less BDNF is present in the memory centre of those diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. However genetic association studies alone have not produced definite findings regarding this gene. Instead, a combination of genetics and brain imaging were used to demonstrate clear effects of this gene in the brain.

In the study published today in the Archives of General Psychiatry, a variation of the BDNF gene called val66met, was tracked and examined in healthy individuals to see what effect it had on the brain. Genotyping was used to determine which study participants carried the gene variation. Then two types of brain imaging -- high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) cortical thickness mapping and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) (an MRI-based technique that measures key structural connections in the brain)-- were applied to measure the physical structures of the brain in each individual. This combination of genetic screening and imaging found that BDNF val66met gene variation influenced exactly those brain structures and connections that deteriorate at the earliest phases of Alzheimer's disease.

"Our sample consisted of healthy adults who passed all cognitive testing and displayed no clinical sym
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Contact: Michael Torres
media@camh.net
416-595-6015
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Source:Eurekalert

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