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Measuring brain atrophy in patients with mild cognitive impairment
Date:6/16/2009

emporal lobe atrophy has been associated with increased risk for conversion of MCI to Alzheimer's disease. However, until now, studies have focused only on measurements of the brain's hippocampus. The extent to which volumes of the amygdala the section of the brain associated with emotions and the nearby temporal horn could predict cognitive decline was unknown.

In addition, methods to measure these parts of the brain relied on subjective assessments of MRIs using a "tracing technique" that literally required a drawing of these portions of the brain a technique that isn't practical or possible in most clinical settings.

For more than a year, researchers at the Memory Disorders Clinic at UC San Diego Medical Center have been successfully using a fully computerized procedure that takes images from the MRI scanner and translates them into quantitative values, according to Rafii, the clinic's director. UC San Diego was the first clinic site to use this technology, which is now starting to be used in other clinical settings throughout the country.

The study looked at the fully automated volume measures of 269 MCI patients over a six-month interval. Baseline volume measurements of the hippocampus, amygdala and temporal horn were evaluated as predictors of cognitive change as measured by two commonly used instruments for screening cognitive function and dementia. Patients with smaller volumes of the hippocampus and amygdala showed more rapid clinical decline on these tests.

"These values objectively measure the hippocampus and amydala, and early data confirm previous findings that these brain areas may atrophy early in Alzheimer's disease and can offer a clinical marker for change," said Rafii. The fluid-filled temporal horn increases as the hippocampus shrinks, and these complementary measurements may correlate closely with how a patient's cognitive status worsens over time, he added.


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Contact: Debra Kain
ddkain@ucsd.edu
619-543-6163
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert

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