Study: SPECT used to track key receptor loss

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Researchers at Yale University have used SPECT imaging in an effort to successfully track the loss of nicotinic receptors that accompanies aging, according to the September issue of the journal Neurobiology of Aging.

Christopher H. van Dyck, MD, professor of psychiatry and neurobiology and director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Unit at Yale University, and colleagues used SPECT imaging to track concentrations of nicotinic receptors in eight brain regions of 47 subjects, age 18 to 35.

According to the authors, these receptors are “part of a key neural pathway that not only enhances learning and memory skills but reinforces addictions as well,” and have been difficult to study in living patients.

The researchers observed an age-related loss of receptors in seven of eight brain regions of the 47 subjects studied, at a rate of about five percent per decade of life.

“These results may encourage the broadening of therapeutic trials to target the cognitive decline associated with healthy aging,” van Dyck said.

The research was funded by the American Health Assistance Foundation, the Department of Veteran Affairs and the National Institute of Drug Abuse.