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MRI scans reveal brain changes in people at genetic risk for Alzheimer's
Date:12/16/2010

ood flow in the brain.

"We make sure they don't go to sleep," Sheline says. "But other than not sleeping, study participants had no instructions. They were just lying there at rest, and we looked at what their brains were doing."

This is the latest in a series of studies in which Sheline and her colleagues have looked at brain function in people at risk for Alzheimer's disease. Initially, her team compared the default mode networks in the brains of people with mild Alzheimer's disease to the same structures in the brains of those who were cognitively normal. In that study, her team found significant differences in how the network functioned.

Then, using PET imaging to identify cognitively normal people who had amyloid deposits in their brains in a second study, they compared those cognitively normal people whose PET scans indicated that their brains contained amyloid to others whose PET scans showed no evidence of amyloid. Again, the default mode network operated differently in those with amyloid deposits.

In the current study, there was no evidence of dementia or amyloid deposits. But still, in those with the APOE4 variant, there was irregular functioning in the default mode network.

APOE4 is the major genetic risk factor for sporadic cases of Alzheimer's disease. Other genes that pass on inherited, early-onset forms of the disease have been identified, but APOE4 is the most important genetic marker of the disease identified so far, Sheline says.

The study subjects, all of whom participate in studies through the university's Charles F. and Joanne Knight Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, will be followed to see whether they eventually develop amyloid deposits. Sheline anticipates many will.

"I think a significant number of them eventually will be positive for amyloid," she says. "We hope that if some people begin to accumulate amyloid, we'll be able to look back at our data and identify particular pat
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Contact: Jim Dryden
jdryden@wustl.edu
314-286-0110
Washington University School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert  

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