MRI holds promise for earlier Azheimer diagnosis and treatment

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Increases in the size of the brain ventricles are directly associated with cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease, according to research from Robarts Research Institute at The University of Western Ontario in Canada, published online July 11 in Brain.

Previous research has shown the link between ventricle size and Alzheimer’s over longer time intervals. The research conducted at the institute shows that ventricle size increases with mild cognitive impairment before a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, and continues to increase with the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease after only six months.

Led by scientist Robert Bartha, the research showed that the volume of the brain ventricles expands as surrounding tissue dies.

“These findings mean that, in the future, by using MRI to measure changes in brain ventricle size, we may be able to provide earlier and more definitive diagnosis,” Bartha said. “In addition, as new treatments for Alzheimer’s are developed, the measurement of brain ventricle changes can also be used to quickly determine the effectiveness of the treatment.”

The research also showed that Alzheimer’s patients with a genetic marker for Alzheimer’s disease exhibited faster expansion in ventricle volume.

The research was performed by using MRI scans from individuals from across North America. Using software developed by Cedara Software, the OEM division of Merge Healthcare, researchers examined 500 data sets of individuals at baseline and six months later.

Images were obtained from the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), a large multi-site trial sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the pharmaceutical industry, which includes an online database of imaging information gathered from 800 people at more than 50 sites across the United States and Canada. The images are MRIs of individuals with no cognitive impairment, those with mild cognitive impairment and people with Alzheimer’s disease.

“This is one of the first major research studies published using data from ADNI,”  Borrie said, “but there will be many more neuroimaging and biomarker discoveries to arise from the ADNI project. It is a tremendous opportunity for researchers anywhere in the world to use the ADNI databases, to collaborate and share their findings in a new way that will move Alzheimer's Disease research forward more quickly, objectively and effectively."