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MRI Helps Detect Alzheimer’s Before Major Damage

MRI May Detect Alzheimer's Before Damage While researchers are still looking for interventions to alter the course of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), there is good news regarding detection of the disease.

A new study suggests magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can detect Alzheimer’s disease (AD) at an early stage, before irreversible damage has occurred.

With current estimates of 5.4 million Americans living with the disease, AD is a pervasive problem that is predicted to play a large role in health care costs of the future. Scientists predict the cumulative costs of care for AD could exceed $20 trillion over the course of the next 40 years.

As a result, there is growing interest in tests that could identify individuals at risk for AD at an early stage, when memory preservation may still be possible.

“One of the things that made our study novel was that we looked at patients who were cognitively normal at baseline, rather than people with mild cognitive impairment,” said lead author Gloria C. Chiang, M.D.

For the study, researchers looked at whether automated brain volume measurements on MRI could accurately predict future memory decline in elderly people with normal cognitive ability. They assessed 149 participants with an initial baseline MRI scan and a neuropsychological assessment.

Follow-up exams two years later showed that 25 of the 149 initially cognitively normal participants, or 17 percent, had memory decline.

Researchers looked at the temporal and parietal areas of the brain, with analysis of brain volume changes in both regions presenting an 81 percent accuracy rate in discriminating between cognitively normal people with and without memory decline.

“Previous models have included regions of the brain as isolated variables,” Chiang said. “Our study showed that volume loss in multiple regions that may be interconnected had a greater impact on memory decline. We found that automated temporal and parietal volumes identified those at risk for future memory decline with high accuracy.”

The study represents another step in the process of incorporating imaging into the diagnosis and management of Alzheimer’s disease, according to Chiang.

“We can see so much with MRI, but right now there’s no way to definitively diagnose AD with imaging,” she said. “The goal in the future is to have a screening device to monitor cognitive decline and diagnose AD.”

Source: Radiological Society of North America

MRI Helps Detect Alzheimer’s Before Major Damage

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). MRI Helps Detect Alzheimer’s Before Major Damage. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 12 Apr 2011)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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