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UCLA researchers image earliest signs of Alzheimer's, before symptoms appear
Date:1/28/2010

Estimates are that some 10 percent of people over the age of 65 will develop Alzheimer's disease, the scourge that robs people of their memories and, ultimately, their lives.

While researchers race to find both the cause and the cure, others are moving just as fast to find the earliest signs that will predict an eventual onset of the disease, well before any outward symptoms. The reason is simple: The earlier the diagnosis, the earlier treatments can be applied.

Now, through the use of sophisticated brain-imaging techniques, researchers at UCLA have been able to predict a brain's progression to Alzheimer's by measuring subtle changes in brain structure over time, changes that occur long before symptoms can be seen. The research appears in two separate papers currently available online and scheduled for future print publication.

In the first study, which appears in the online edition of the journal Human Brain Mapping, UCLA assistant clinical professor of neurology Liana Apostolova and colleagues tracked 169 people over three years who had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition that causes memory problems greater than those expected for an individual's age but not the personality or cognitive changes that define Alzheimer's. They found that after three years, those who went on to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease showed a 10 to 30 percent greater atrophy in two specific locations within the brain's hippocampus, a part of the brain known to be critical for long-term memory.

In the second study, which appears in the online edition of the journal Neurobiology of Aging, the researchers looked at 10 cognitively normal elderly people and compared their brain scans with those of seven other elderly people who were later diagnosed with MCI and then Alzheimer's. Again, they found that the group that went on to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's showed the same pattern of atrophy in the same
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Contact: Mark Wheeler
mwheeler@mednet.ucla.edu
310-794-2265
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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