Digital 'Atlas' of Aging Brain Could Help Diagnose Alzheimer's Earlier

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Researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland have created what they are calling a digital “atlas” of the aging brain, developed using MRI scans from older adults that they say can aid in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurocognitive disorders.

The new digital map is considered an advancement over currently available maps of the brain since the latter are based on the brains of young and middle-aged people, which doesn’t reflect changes to the brain as people age.

The Edinburgh team created the atlas using scans from over 130 people, who were healthy and at least 60 years of age. They then used that map to compare brain scans of both normal older subjects and those who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The atlas they created was able to recognize changes in patients’ brain structure.

One of the earliest, principal signs of Alzheimer’s is the loss of tissue in a brain area called the medial temporal lobe. Although changes to this part of the brain are often subtle and can be missed, having the atlas may make it more likely for clinicians to spot them, the researchers reported in the journal PLOS ONE.

Ultimately, the researchers want to use the new brain atlas to diagnose Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases earlier than is done now.

Digital 'Atlas' of Aging Brain Could Help Diagnose Alzheimer's Earlier
The digital map of an older brain could help in diagnosing Alzheimer's disease and other neurocognitive disorders.

A digital map of the aging brain could aid the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders in older people, a study suggests.

The atlas created using images from MRI scans of older people could aid diagnosis by comparing the patients' scans with a detailed map of the healthy aging brain.

Most existing MRI atlases are based on the brains of young and middle-aged people, which don't reflect the normal changes that take place in the brain as we age, the team says.

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