Researchers at Robarts Research Institute at The University of Western Ontario in London, Canada have found clear evidence that increases in the size of the brain ventricles are directly associated with cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease.
Ventricles are fluid-filled cavities in the brain. The research, led by Robarts scientist Robert Bartha, shows the volume of the brain ventricles expands as surrounding tissue dies. The research is published online in the neurology journal Brain.
Currently, diagnosis for Alzheimer's relies on neuro-cognitive assessments, such as testing of memory, ability to problem solve, count, etc. Definitive diagnosis is not possible until after death when an autopsy can reveal the presence of amyloid plaques and 'tangles' in brain tissue.
Previous research has shown the link between ventricle size and Alzheimer's over longer time intervals. The research conducted at Robarts Research Institute shows that ventricle size increases with mild cognitive impairment before a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, and continues to increase with the onset and progression of Alzheimer's disease after only six months.
"These findings mean that, in the future, by using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure changes in brain ventricle size, we may be able to provide earlier and more definitive diagnosis," said Bartha, who is also an Associate Professor in the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry in Medical Biophysics. "In addition, as new treatments for Alzheimer's are developed, the measurement of brain ventricle changes can also be used to quickly determine the effectiveness of the treatment."
The research also showed that Alzheimer's patients with a genetic marker for Alzheimer's disease exhibited faster expansion in ventricle volume.
The research was performed by utilizing MRI scans from individuals from across North America. Graduate student Sean Nestor, a coauthor, e
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University of Western Ontario