CogniFit's Science blog: Imaging Advances Help To Detect Cognition Impairment And Onset Of Cognitive Decline

Imaging Advances Help To Detect Cognition Impairment And Onset Of Cognitive Decline

Cognition is fascinating no matter what is being studied. But when new findings come out of it that impact victims of such diseases as Alzheimer’s, you can’t help but feel like a little kid on Christmas morning. That is precisely the case with a new study that shows imaging can detect Alzheimer’s before the onset of cognitive decline.

PET imaging combined with specific imaging agents has been found to detect beta amyloid in the brain. By showing its presence, it can precede mild cognitive decline thus allowing for earlier diagnosis of the horrible disease. Several studies were conducted and presented at the Society of Nuclear Medicine’s 2012 Annual Meeting in Miami Beach, Fla.

Cognition can be a tricky topic and is certainly of high interest to a lot of people. With this new finding, diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can now be made when symptoms first arise in the patient and when it has largely preserved mental function. Prior to, the average delay of three years between seeing a doctor for memory concerns and diagnosing the disease was protocol.

In one of the many studies, researchers took 45 patients with high levels of F-18 florbetaben binding during imaging and atrophy of the hippocampus. Researchers found that patients had an 80 percent chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease over the next two years.

A second study took 194 healthy subjects, 92 people with mild cognitive impairment and 70 people with full on Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers used a different imaging agent, C-11 PiB with PET to gauge amyloid burden in the brain. What they found is that widespread amyloid plaque build-up preceded any kind of cognition impairment and those with extensive amyloid burden had a higher risk of cognitive decline.

A third study used PET imaging agent C-11 PiB and assessed it for its ability to detect amyloid plaque in comparison with imaging agent 18-F fluorodeoxyglucose, which acts like glucose. The goal was to map out the metabolic functioning of the brain. With this study, researchers found that C-11 PiB amyloid imaging was excellent in evaluating amyloid patterns in the brain; even better than F-18 FDG imaging.

Researchers and scientists are making use of state-of-the-art, noninvasive PET and MRI technologies to help those who are facing some form of cognition impairment. As a result, they are finding some of the earliest developments of Alzheimer’s disease that has onset in the brains of normal middle-aged people.

With this information, they will be able to better evaluate whether pathological changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease is happening many years before the onset of significant clinical symptoms. And the end result will be far better treatment years before patients would have received it.