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Memory test and PET scans detect early signs of Alzheimer's
Date:7/14/2009

a variety of measurements that had previously shown promise as early detectors of Alzheimer's. The measurements included scores on the Auditory Verbal Learning Test; the volume of the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with the formation of new memory; the presence of the apolipoprotein E4 gene, which has been linked to increased risk of Alzheimer's; certain proteins found in the cerebrospinal fluid; and glucose metabolism detected in PET brain scans. A low rate of glucose metabolism in a particular brain region is considered a sign of poor neural function, most likely due to the loss of synapses in that area.

"What's really novel about our study is that we evaluated all of these biomarkers in the same subjects, so we could more easily compare the predictive value of any one measure over the others," said Landau. "The Auditory-Verbal Learning Test, which measures memory recall ability, and the PET scans measuring glucose metabolism were the two markers that clearly stood out over the others."

The researchers pointed out that other measurements - in particular, hippocampus volume and the cerebrospinal fluid markers - also showed promise in predicting disease progression. However, when considering all the measurements together, PET scans and memory recall ability were the most consistent predictors. The researchers expect to have more complete information about which measures serve as the best predictors in a year as they continue to gather data for this ongoing study.

An earlier study led by Jagust, a professor with joint appointments at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, found that PET scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) could detect neurological changes in asymptomatic people who subsequently developed dementia or mental impairment, although it was too soon to say if those people would go on to develop Alzheimer's.

The research is part of the nationwide Alzheime
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Contact: Sarah Yang
scyang@berkeley.edu
510-643-7741
University of California - Berkeley
Source:Eurekalert  

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