July 29, 2009
Brain Scans Detect Early Stage Alzheimers Amyloid Pathology

Brain scans can detect amyloid plaques accumulating in the brain before Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is diagnosed.

"Two recent advances in neuroimaging now allow us to explore the early, asymptomatic phase of AD, the ability to measure amyloid distribution in living humans and the identification of sensitive markers of brain dysfunction in AD," explains lead study author, Dr. Reisa Sperling from the Center for Alzheimer's Research and Treatment at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. In addition to amyloid accumulation, AD has been associated with functional alterations in a specific network of brain regions that are intimately linked with memory formation.

These scientists may be watching early stage AD.

Dr. Sperling and colleagues combined amyloid imaging with an associative memory functional brain imaging paradigm to study older humans who did not exhibit significant memory impairment. Importantly, the researchers found that a significant number of nondemented older individuals exhibited amyloid deposition and abnormal neural activity in key areas of the brain network thought to be involved in successful memory function. These results demonstrate for the first time that amyloid pathology in asymptomatic older humans is linked with aberrant neural responses during the process of memory formation.

"Longitudinal studies are certainly needed, but our findings are consistent with the premise that cognitively intact older individuals with amyloid pathology may already be in the early stages of AD," explains Dr. Sperling. "The combination of molecular and functional imaging techniques may prove useful in monitoring disease progression prior to significant clinical symptoms, as well as the response to amyloid-modifying therapeutic agents in subjects at-risk for developing AD."

What I'd like to see in a follow-up study: do the brain scans on elderly people and measure the plaque build-up. Then try various dietary and drug interventions followed by another round of brain scans to see if any of these interventions reverse the plaque build-up when it is found in early stages. In theory brain scan technology that detects early stage AD ought to allow faster checking of the efficacy of interventions and therefore the ability to try out a lot more interventions to find ones that work.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 July 29 11:04 PM  Brain Alzheimers Disease

Lou Pagnucco said at July 30, 2009 7:14 AM:

I agree, Randall.

I expect that it would be easy to find a large number of volunteers to test how effective the speculative therapies are - e.g., niacinamide, curcumin, various flavonoids, ACE-inhibitors, low-dose ARBs, TNF-alpha blockers, methylene blue, etc...

With large numbers, the efficacy of various "cocktails" could be determined fairly quickly.

Probably, though, less worthy projects will be funded instead.

Lou Pagnucco said at July 31, 2009 8:32 AM:

Good point, Rafal

The amyloid hypothesis could be wrong. Perhaps, amyloid is compensatory.

Either way, though, it is a biomarker.
Drug or dietary agents that change its production rate seem like good candidates for more investigation.

Interesting that the anti-histamine, Dimebon, slows Alzheimer's patients memory loss while also increasing amyloid.

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