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Alzheimer's hope for brain scan detection

9th February 2006

Cognitive impairments could be detected via brain scans before any symptoms are present, suggests a new study, helping to treat the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

Research into the connection between abnormalities in the brain and performances in memory and cognitive tests has indicated that scanned images could predict if a person is going to develop Alzheimer's.

Developments into preventative treatments and early detection tests for the disease are considered vital as forecasts suggest that the number of people with the disease is set to significantly increase over the next decade.

Dr William Jagust, lead author of the research said: "Our paper is one of the few to show that it is possible to detect changes in the brains of normal older people who experience subsequent cognitive decline."

Published in the Annals of Neurology, the study took 60 cognitively normal participants and carried out a number of brain scans on them. Further scans were performed every 3.8 years, with memory and cognitive tests also carried out.

The results showed a number of small differences in the brains of those who went on to develop cognitive impairments or Alzheimer's.

"By identifying early changes that could predict the development of dementia, it may also be possible to link those changes to primary risk factors that could be altered," commented Mary Haan, professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan.