OAK BROOK, Ill. Researchers using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have found a new marker which may aid in early diagnosis of Alzheimers disease, according to a study published in the October issue of Radiology.
The findings of this study implicate a potential functional, rather than structural, brain markerseparate from atrophythat may help enhance diagnosis and treatment monitoring of Alzheimers patients, said the studys lead author, Jeffrey R. Petrella, M.D., associate professor of radiology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.
Alzheimers disease is a progressive brain disorder characterized by memory loss, confusion, personality or behavioral changes and other symptoms. According to the Alzheimers Association, more than five million Americans currently have Alzheimers disease.
While there is still no cure for the disorder, early diagnosis is crucial so that the patient receives proper treatment.
As new therapies for Alzheimers disease enter the pipeline over the next five years, early diagnosis will become critical for patient selection, Dr. Petrella said. fMRI may play a key role in early diagnosis, when combined with clinical, genetic and other imaging markers.
Among the earliest known changes to the brain in Alzheimers disease are episodic memory deficits and structural changes in the medial temporal lobe (MTL). For the study, Dr. Petrella and colleagues set out to identify brain regions in which changes in activation took place during a memory task and to correlate these changes with the degree of memory impairment present in patients with Alzheimers disease or mild cognitive impairment.
The researchers studied 13 patients with mild Alzheimers disease, 34 patients with mild cognitive impairment and 28 healthy controls. The study group contained 37 men and 38 women with a mean age of 72.9 years. After completing standard neuropsychological testing, the study participants w
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Radiological Society of North America