Impact: This new imaging method may allow doctors to track neuronal cell reductions in the hippocampus in people that precede clinical symptoms -- offering a new avenue for understanding disease progression and a potentially sensitive new tool for early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease and dementia. The new method is currently under patent application.
Authors: Dr. Jorge R. Barrio, UCLA professor of medical and molecular pharmacology and Dr. Gary Small, a professor with the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, are available for interviews.
Journal: The research appears in the Jan. 9 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A PDF is available of the full study.
Funding: Department of Energy
Visuals: Colorful PET scans of the brain available.
Background: Using the new strategy, UCLA researchers found density decreases of the hippocampus and other key memory centers in 49 percent of Alzheimer's disease patients and a 24 percent decrease in patients with mild cognitive impairment. "We hope this new method will lead us to a better understanding of Alzheimer's disease as well as a new strategy for early detection," said Barrio. "A shrinking hippocampus is a hallmark sign of Alzheimer's disease and this new marker will offer a useful strategy for early detection and more effective treatment," said Small.