Tracking the increasing size of the brain ventricles could act as a direct indicator of cognitive problems and the onset of Alzheimer's disease, researchers at the University of Western Ontario, Canada found.
Gauging the size of the brain ventricles – the fluid-filled cavities in the brain – and the surrounding dead brain tissue with the help of magnetic resonance imaging scans may help doctors diagnose Alzheimer's disease much earlier than standard diagnostic tests, the Canadian researchers claim.
For the research the researchers performed brain scans using the magnetic resonance imaging technique on 504 individuals over the age of 70 enrolled in the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), a multi-site trial co-sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the pharmaceutical industry, both at baseline and six months later.
They were then categorized into three groups; one had no cognitive impairment, second, some cognitive impairment and third, who were already diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
On examination researchers found a direct association between ventricledefine enlargement and Alzheimer's - ‘as the ventricles enlarge, the surrounding brain tissue dies’.
In individuals with no cognitive impairment the ventricle growth rate was noticed at about 1.5 per cent over six months and the brain tissue shrank during the normal aging process.