June 17, 2009

Brain volume may predict Alzheimer’s

U.S. scientists say an automated measure of brain volume may help predict progression to Alzheimer's disease.

The procedure -- volumetric magnetic resonance imaging -- measures the memory centers of the brain and compares them to expected size.

The study, published in Alzheimer's Disease and Associated Disorders, examined the fully automated volume measures of 269 patients with mild cognitive impairment over a six-month interval.

Dr. Michael Rafii of the University of California in San Diego says baseline volume measurements of different parts of the brain -- hippocampus, amygdala and temporal horn -- were evaluated as predictors of cognitive change and patients with smaller volumes of the hippocampus and amygdala showed more rapid clinical decline.

Our goal was to find neuroimaging measures of change that reflected more than merely a person's advancing age, but instead correlated tightly with how a person's cognitive status worsens over time, Rafii, the study co-author, said in a statement.

Rafii says it is too early to draw a definitive comparison, but it appears that early changes -- especially shrinking of the hippocampus -- could serve as a biological marker for Alzheimer's disease.