News | September 14, 2006

MRI Detects Signs Possibly Pointing to Alzheimer's

Researchers at Dartmouth Medical School reported that recurrent memory loss in older adults mirrors brain changes present in patients with very early Alzheimer's, even when standard cognitive tests came up normal.
"Cognitive complaints should be taken very seriously. Those with significant cognitive complaints and concerns should talk with their physicians and get a thorough evaluation," said researcher Andrew Saykin, a professor of psychiatry and radiology at Dartmouth Medical School, in Lebanon, N.H.
The study, which was published in the September issue of Neurology, examined brain changes using MRI brain scans on 120 adults aged 60 to 90 to determine if gray matter changes in the brain's medial temporal lobe were similar to those seen in patients with Alzheimer's disease and mild cognitive impairment or very early Alzheimer's.
Researchers performed an MRI exam on 40 participants with cognitive complaints, 40 patients with mild cognitive impairment and another 40 healthy controls.
According to Saykin, the results indicated that the cognitive-complaint and mild-cognitive-impairment groups had similar patterns of decreased gray matter in their brains, and the degree of gray matter loss was associated with the extent of memory complaints and performance deficits.
Researchers hope that the study could lead to the early detection of Alzheimer's disease.
"This is the kind of early diagnostic method that is badly needed. Everything we're doing now says the therapy works better earlier," said Greg M. Cole, associate director of the University of California, Los Angeles' Alzheimer's Disease Research Center.

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