Yale researchers discover new technique for identifying common brain disorders

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New research from Yale University has provided an innovative approach to scanning brains for common brain disorders, a technique that could shed light on how to diagnose and treat a variety of disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy.

The researchers of the study, published July 20 in Science Translational Medicine, combined PET scanning technology with biochemistry to quantify synapses throughout the brain.

Richard Carson, the lead author on the study and a professor of radiology and biochemical imaging at Yale University, and his team created a radioactive tracer that binds with a key protein that is in all synapses across the brain.

They used the imaging method in baboons and humans and confirmed the technique served as a marker for synaptic density.

"This is the first time we have synaptic density measurement in live human beings," Carson said. "Up to now any measurement of synaptic density was postmortem."

In addition to being able to examine the progression of brain disorders, the new method could also lend itself to measuring how pharmaceuticals slow the loss of neurons in the brain. Looking ahead, they plan to launch other studies to examine them.