Measuring Change in the Brain

A revolutionary brain-imaging tool has been developed for the treatment of Alzheimer’s. Would it also work for other degenerative conditions, such as Parkinson’s and fronto-temporal dementia?

A team of radiologists, computer scientists and neurologists found a way to measure even the tiniest of changes to the structure of the brain, using data from MRIs taken at six-month intervals. The test subjects had either mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s, or no apparent problems. Using the tool to analyze the images, the team at UC-San Diego were able to describe, very precisely, the degenerative path that leads to Alzheimer’s.

The technology is more precise and useful for Alzheimer’s patients than the current method, which tests for the presence of certain proteins (which can be present in people without Alzhiemer’s). It offers insight into rate of progression. The implications are huge, both clinically (for faster and more accurate diagnosis and prognosis) and for research into new drugs, because now we’ll be able to see exactly what brain structures are being affected.

The technique analyzes “cortical and subcortical” parts of the brain. From the article, we know that includes the frontal and temporal regions affected by FTD. It stands to reason that the technique would be applied to subcortical regions affected by Parkinson’s and related syndromes.

Read more: ADNI Yields Fast, Robust Method of Quantifying Cerebral Changes in AD.