FINDINGS: Using an innovative three-dimensional imaging technique, a team of UCLA researchers have tracked how Alzheimer's disease spreads through the hippocampus -- the area of the brain linked with memory -- in a pattern consistent with the known trajectory of neurofibrilliary tangle dissemination, an accumulation of diseased proteins in the brain cells. They found that three areas within the hippocampus of Alzheimer's patients show more atrophy compared with those in patients having amnestic mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a recently defined condition characterized by memory decline but that leaves other daily living activities unimpaired, and which immediately precedes Alzheimer's.
IMPACT: The technique is significant because it makes it possible to track the progression of Alzheimer's disease in live patients. This will be crucial in evaluating the effectiveness of drugs that fight Alzheimer's when they become available for clinical trials.
AUTHORS: Liana G. Apostolova, Rebecca A. Dutton, Kiralee M. Hayashi, Arthur W. Toga, Jeffrey L. Cummings and Paul M. Thompson, all of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and Ivo D. Dinov of the UCLA Department of Statistics.
JOURNAL: Now available online at the Web site of Brain magazine, http://brain.
FUNDERS: The National Institute of Aging, the American Federation for Aging Research, the National Institute for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, the National Library of Medicine, the National Center for Research Resources, the National Institute for Mental Health, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the American Federation for Aging Research, the John A. Hartford Foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies, the Starr Foundation and an anonymous donor.