In a study published in the journal Neurology, scientists from the University of Pennsylvania used brain scan data to measure the thickness of individual areas of the cortex of 159 people who are not suffering from dementia. The average age of the participants in the study was 76 years. Measured cortical divisions were selected based on previous studies, which showed a decrease in certain brain segments in patients with Alzheimer's disease.
In 19 of the 159 patients, the risk of Alzheimer's disease was high due to the smaller size of the areas of the cerebral cortex, prone to destruction in the development of Alzheimer's disease. In 116 people, the risk was average and another 24 was low.
In diagnosing Alzheimer's disease, size matters
At the beginning of the study and over the next three years, the participants also underwent a measurement of memory, ability to solve problems, plan, and ability to focus on specific tasks. In 21% of Alzheimer's patients at high risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, there was a decline in cognitive function in the brain for three years, compared with 7% among those with average risk and lack of such among Alzheimer's patients with a low probability of developing Alzheimer's disease.
In addition, studies have shown that 60% of high-risk Alzheimer's patients also had an elevated level of protein-related diseases in the cerebrospinal fluid, which is also a marker of Alzheimer's disease. At the same time, participants with an average risk of changes in the level of proteins were found only in 36%, but with a low risk - 19%.
Thus, measuring by means of magnetic resonance scanning of the size of the brain segments that is destroyed by Alzheimer's disease may in the long run help in the early diagnosis of the disease, even in the absence of the first symptoms and disorders caused by the disease.