This month's annual meeting of the Neuroradiology Education and Research (NER) Foundation Symposium and the 42nd American Society of Neuroradiology (ASNR) presented medical imaging advancements that hold what organizers say are "significant promise to enhance disease diagnosis to ultimately improve the life-saving and life-changing benefits of today's medical treatments."
Technologies and research in the areas of fetal imaging focused on modalities, such as diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and functional MRI (fMRI). The tests are safe for pregnant women, their unborn babies and newborns with MRI that uses no ionizing radiation. The resulting data enable diagnosis and treatment of many disorders that were previously undetectable or worsened by delayed intervention. Physicians can now better detect and trace abnormal fetal brain development in-utero and improve the effectiveness of subsequent treatment therapies.
In the area of epilepsy, imaging technologies, such as diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), MRI and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), were among the technologies presented at the meeting, which demonstrated improvements in detecting the origin of the seizure within the brain.
"Detecting the origin of the seizure with greater specificity enables us to better treat patients, to select those patients who may be cured by surgery and those who are better treated medically," said ASNR Program Chair and President-elect Victor Haughton, MD. "Effective imaging can maximize the medical outcome and - in the case of epilepsy - even an incremental benefit can go a long way towards improved quality of life for these patients."
New imaging research - most notably using magnetoencephalography (MEG) - is shedding light on autism by monitoring neuronal activity to better identify how one's brain function is abnormal. MEG is a non-invasive, high-resolution technique that can detect fields so minute that it can physically image a single thought in real-time. In this manner, MEG has been extremely insightful in gaining a greater understanding of how autistic children process sounds (only in the left hemisphere as opposed to both) and other aspects of language impairments, traditionally associated with autism. Together with MR imaging and functional MRI, it provides a picture of how brain functions are organized in individuals with autism.
While there is no known cure for Alzheimer's disease, it has been established that if it is treated before severe cognitive deficits occur, patients can maintain healthier cognitive function. Continued refinement of proven imaging techniques, such as MRI, promise to help diagnose Alzheimer's progressively earlier.
"New research using MRI shows that the rate of brain atrophy during the period of mild cognitive impairment can predict future decline into Alzheimer's disease within four years prior to clinical diagnosis," Haughton said. "This information can help maximize the potential to preserve this cognitive ability by enabling earlier intervention."