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Major Imaging Initiative to Shed Light on Little Known Brain Disease
Date:1/25/2010

easures of the normal rates of change in FTD will be critical for planning future medication trials that will use imaging as an outcome,” says Rosen.

“While cognitive testing scores vary from day to day due to factors such as sleep quality and medication use, imaging studies measure brain structure and function precisely. They can reveal when a drug has slowed or reversed the brain shrinkage that would normally occur.”

UCSF and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, will collaborate to enroll 120 FTD patients, as well as about 80 people who will serve as cognitively normal “controls.” Each participant will be followed for one and a half years with neurological examinations, cognitive and behavioral assessments, and brain imaging. Neurologist David Knopman, MD, will lead the Mayo team.

FTD is diagnosed by an assessment of a patient’s clinical history, and by neurological, cognitive and behavioral evaluations. Blood tests and neuroimaging supplement the process, but primarily help rule out other neurological disorders and provide additional evidence for FTD, rather than reveal a definitive diagnosis.

The new imaging project, which will begin in early 2010, will obtain several different types of images in each patient. Some will be obtained through structural magnetic resonance imaging, which measures the size and shape of the brain, and positron emission tomography, which examines aspects of metabolism, such as glucose consumption. Others will be obtained through promising new MRI techniques, including imaging to measure the blood content in the brain, and imaging to determine the integrity of the neural wiring, or axons, connecting various parts of the brain, using a technique called diffusion tensor imaging.

“It is possible that one or both of these techniques could replace PET scanning, which is expensive and requires exposure to radiation,” says Rosen. “This would
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