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Researchers identify novel method of distinguishing Alzheimers disease from other types of dementia

DALLAS May 5, 2004 Nearly a century after Alzheimer's disease was first identified, there has been no foolproof way to diagnose the illness in a living patient. But a new method used by doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas is almost 100 percent accurate when combined with clinical assessment.

Testing blood flow in a specific region of the brain may boost the degree of diagnostic certainty in difficult cases from 90 percent to almost 100 percent, said Dr. Frederick Bonte, director of the Nuclear Medicine Center at UT Southwestern.

A study appearing today in the Journal of Nuclear Medicine shows that single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) can be used to identify a characteristic sign of Alzheimer's disease and distinguish it from a group of illnesses known as frontotemporal diseases, which comprise the second-leading cause of dementia in the elderly.

SPECT is a radioisotope test that produces a three-dimensional picture of the amount of blood flowing in certain regions of the brain. People with Alzheimer's have reduced blood flow in some areas of the brain, one of which is called the posterior cingulate cortex. This region helps process information from the parietal cortex and the hippocampus, which are responsible for storing vocabulary words and geographical information.

"This is the first publication using the posterior cingulate to rule out frontotemporal disease," said Dr. Bonte, the study's lead author. "If the blood flow is significantly reduced to that structure, you have identified Alzheimer's, and you have simultaneously excluded the frontotemporal dementias.

"The dementing diseases are becoming a very important socio-economic problem, in addition to being a group of scientific problems of incredible difficulty. The prospects are quite hopeful now that effective treatments for Alzheimer's disease and possibly a cure will emerge in the not-too-distant future. This makes it even more import
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Contact: Rachel Horton
rachel.horton@utsouthwestern.edu
214-648-3404
UT Southwestern Medical Center
5-May-2004


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