A brain scan could predict cognitive decline and help advance research into the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, according to researchers at Duke University Medical Centre in the US.
The study, published in the Nature journal, Molecular Psychiatry, examined 152 people aged 50 and over, of whom 69 had normal cognitive function, 52 had mild cognitive impairment and 31 had Alzheimer's disease.
The participants undertook numerous cognitive tests and PET brain scans using a radioactive dye called Amyvid, which binds to the beta-amyloid plaques that characterize Alzheimer's disease. After three years (36 months) the tests were repeated on all participants.
The study found that regardless of cognitive status, those who had evidence of beta-amyloid in their brains at the start showed greater deterioration on cognitive tests than those with a negative Amyvid scan.
The results showed that thirty-five percent of amyloid-positive participants who started with mild cognitive impairment progressed to Alzheimer's, compared to only 10 percent without any plaques.
Alzheimer's Society comment
Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development, said:
'Finding a way of detecting dementia before it happens would be a significant step forward. Whilst Amyvid scans are not currently used to diagnose Alzheimer's disease, this study suggests they might be useful to make predictions around cognitive decline. This could help us find the right people to take part in clinical trials, giving research a much-needed boost.
'In light of news this week into a potential blood test to predict dementia risk, it is good to see we are developing tools to improve dementia research. It is only through research that we will identify treatments and eventually find a cure for this condition.'
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