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Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

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MRI Scan May Predict Alzheimer's Disease

Study Shows MRIs May Be Useful in Predicting Alzheimer’s for People With Mild Cognitive Impairment

Comparing MRIs continued...

They used MRI exams from the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative database. It includes MRIs performed between 2005 and 2010 on all three groups.

The aim of the initiative was to research the progression of mild cognitive impairment and early Alzheimer's.

McEvoy's team took into account what is known about brain changes in Alzheimer's, such as a loss of brain cells and a thinning of the cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex plays a key role in memory, attention, thought, and language.

They observed the pattern of changes in each person. They also used a software program to compute a risk score for each person.

The one-year risk of conversion from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer's disease ranged from 3% to 40%.

The researchers evaluated the changes between the first and second MRIs, taken a year apart. From that, they computed the risk of progression the next year. That risk ranged from 3% to 69%.

"I think this is the first study to show individual risk estimates based on MRI data," she says.

When refined, the information will be valuable if treatments to modify the disease become available, she says.

McEvoy's spouse is president of CorTechs Labs, which develops software for brain MRI analysis. The software used in the study was developed by CorTechs together with researchers from University of California, San Diego and the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging.

Another author is a consultant for CorTechs Labs. Another is the company founder and serves on the scientific advisory board in addition to holding equity.

'Not a Breakthrough'

The new study provides valuable information but is not a diagnostic breakthrough, says Gary J. Kenney, MD, director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. He reviewed the study findings for WebMD.

"This is a highly select sample," he says. "It's a refinement in risk estimate. This is a scientific advance, not a clinical advance."

William Thies, PhD, chief medical and scientific officer for the Alzheimer's Association, agrees the new research is important. "However, more research needs to be done to confirm these findings," he says.

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