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

ant to find out who really has Alzheimer's disease and is, therefore, eligible for treatment and who has one of the other dementing diseases, for whom these new treatments would be ineffective."

In the study, SPECT was used to measure brain blood flow in the posterior cingulate cortex of 60 people, aged 54 to 92. Twenty of the patients were suspected of having Alzheimer's disease; 20 were suspected of having frontotemporal disease; and the remaining 20 were normal volunteers with no evidence of dementia.

Of those suspected of having Alzheimer's, 16 exhibited significant blood-flow reductions in the posterior cingulate cortex. Of the 20 patients suspected of having frontotemoporal disease, only one showed signs of reduced blood flow in the region. That patient was later re-evaluated and diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

Dr. Linda Hynan, a UT Southwestern biostatistician and assistant professor and co-author of the paper, said this study shows that patients with poor blood flow in the posterior cingulate cortex are 16 times more likely to have Alzheimer's disease than one of the frontotemporal dementias.

Evidence of shrinkage in brain structures such as the hippocampus and parietal cortex is also central to diagnosing Alzheimer's. This shrinkage, or atrophy, can be seen on a standard MRI. Still, autopsy remains the definitive diagnostic tool for Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimer's disease affects 4 million Americans and accounts for 70 percent of dementia-causing diseases. Symptoms may include memory loss, personality changes, trouble finding words and feeling lost in familiar places. Ten percent to 15 percent of adults 65 or older in the United States have Alzheimer's disease.

Dr. Bonte, who founded the medical center's Department of Radiology in 1956, has been involved in research and clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer's for 24 years.


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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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