New Alzheimer’s diagnostic approach possible using MRI, study contends

Efforts at early detection of Alzheimer’s disease have focused on identifying beta amyloid plaque associated with the disease but other biomarkers may be identified using MRI, opening the field to a possible new diagnostic tool, according to a study released Monday.

The radiologists who presented the study at the Radiological Society of North America’s annual meeting in Chicago used diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), an MRI method, to show that the brains of patients with early stage Alzheimer’s disease have changes in white matter connections, such as fewer connections or connections that are less efficient. This can lead to forgetfulness and other signs of dementia.

After looking at 102 patients who had enrolled in the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative and who had undergone DTI, the researchers found that the imaging method may help assess brain damage in early Alzheimer’s patients. It also may help clinicians monitor the effect of therapies, they said. The initiative, formed in 2004, is working to develop biomarkers to use in clinical trials.

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