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Microscopic brain damage detected in early Alzheimer's disease

OAK BROOK, Ill. -- Researchers have developed a new computer-aided analysis technique to identify early cellular damage in Alzheimer's disease (AD). The study is featured in the October issue of Radiology.

"With increasing longevity among the population, the incidence of AD is expected to rise rapidly, creating a great burden not only for patients and their families, but also for society," said Min-Ying Su, Ph.D., author and associate professor in the Department of Radiological Sciences & the Tu and Yuen Center for Functional Onco-Imaging at the University of California at Irvine. "Our methods may enable earlier diagnosis of AD, allowing earlier intervention to slow down disease progression," she added.

As AD progresses, cell membranes in the brain may be damaged, allowing water molecules to move throughout the brain more freely. This phenomenon can disrupt neural processes and cause neuron cells to die, leading to brain atrophy. This process of cellular damage causes an increase in the "apparent diffusion coefficient," or ADC, which is a measurement used to study the distribution of water in the brain.

Thirteen elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) were enrolled in Dr. Su's study. Patients with MCI are at high risk for developing AD. These 13 patients and 13 elderly control subjects underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain and performed recall tasks. On MRI images, ADC values were measured in gray- and white-matter regions by using the computer-aided analysis program. Findings were compared between patients and healthy controls.

The computerized mapping technique allowed researchers to evaluate ADC values in large regions of the brain. In patients with MCI, researchers identified regions of brain atrophy and increased water content in white-matter areas. Additionally, high ADC values were found in the hippocampus, temporal lobe gray matter and the corpus callosum, which connects the two cereb
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Contact: Heather Babiar
hbabiar@rsna.org
630-590-7762
Radiological Society of North America
26-Sep-2006


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