Tracking the source of language loss with amyloid PET

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Scientists are beginning to unlock some of the secrets of a rare type of language dementia known as primary progressive aphasia (PPA) using amyloid PET imaging.

The disease, which causes language loss in its beginning stages, is the result of excessive deposits of a toxic protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease.  Researchers from Northwestern recently used an amyloid PET tracer to look inside the brains of living patients with PPA and discovered that the toxic build-up of amyloid protein is more significant in the region responsible for language processing.

“This new technology is very exciting for Alzheimer’s research,” said study lead author Adam Martersteck, in a university press release. “Not only can we tell if a person is likely or unlikely to have Alzheimer’s disease causing their PPA, but we can see where it is in the brain. By understanding what the brain looks like in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s, we hope to be able to diagnose people earlier and with better accuracy.” 

The end goal of their research, the authors said, is to better diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, guide treatment and identify areas of future dementia.