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New MRI Technique May Predict Progress of Dementias | Neuroscience News

Using a new Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technique, researchers build on evidence that dementias are spread throughout the brain along targeted neuronal pathways in a manner similar to prion diseases. The study was published in the March 22 edition of Neuron by SFVAMC scientists in collaboration with Dr. Bruce Miller.

Prion-like progression is characterized by misfolded proteins in one neuron affecting or infecting neighboring brain cells, causing proteins in that cell to misfold in turn. In Alzheimer’s disease (AD) amyloid protein, for instance, is localized within memory networks and is suggested to propogate in a prion-like manner.

The study attempted to predict the course of AD and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) using images of 14 healthy individual brains. The MRI imaging technique mapped neural pathways that connect different areas of the brain. The spread of disease along those networks, as predicted by the models, closely matched the actual MRI images of 18 Alzheimer’s and 18 FTD patients.

The scientists employed new computer modeling techniques to realistically predict the physical progression of Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal dementia FTD using images of 14 healthy brains. The models were based on whole-brain tractography, an MRI technique that maps the neural pathways, or “communication wires,” that connect different areas of the brain. The spread of disease along those pathways, as predicted by the models, closely matched actual MRI images of brain degeneration in 18 Alzheimer’s patients and 18 FTD patients.

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