Researchers Measure Water Distribution in the Brain to Detect Alzheimer's

Computer-assisted MRI detects water distribution in the brain

A new analysis technique may help spot early signs of Alzheimer's disease, according to recently completed research at UC-Irvine.

As Alzheimer's disease progresses, cells in the brain may become damaged, which allows water molecules to move throughout the brain more freely.

This process of cellular damage causes an increase in the "apparent diffusion coefficient," or ADC, which is a measurement used to study the distribution of water in the brain.

A new study included in the October issue of Radiology looked at 13 elderly people with mild cognitive impairment -- a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease -- and 13 people without mild cognitive impairment.

The participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain and performed memory-recall tasks.

The MRIs used a new computer-aided analysis program to measure ADC values in different regions of the brain.

The University of California, Irvine researchers found that the participants with mild cognitive impairment had increased water content in certain regions of the brain, including white-matter areas, the hippocampus, temporal lobe gray matter and the corpus callosum.

The ADC values in the hippocampus were associated with worse memory-performance scores.

The new computer mapping technology may allow researchers to learn how Alzheimer's disease develops in the brain and come up with new strategies for treating the disease.

"Our methods may enable earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, allowing earlier intervention to slow down disease progression," said researcher Min-Ying Su.

The abstract is here

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