New brain scan detects early Alzheimer’s


A new brain scan can detect if healthy individuals may be at risk from developing Alzheimer’s, claims a recent study.

Results published in Neurology state that the advanced imaging technique – proton MR spectroscopy – can determine any abnormalities in various brain metabolites that may be Alzheimer’s biomarkers.

Dr Jonathan M. Schott, from the Dementia Research Centre, University College London, said: “There is increasing evidence that Alzheimer disease is associated with changes in the brain that start many years before symptoms develop.”

PET scans assessed amyloid-beta deposits (plaques) in the brain, which are one of the initial signs of Alzheimer’s onset. Volunteers’ language, memory and other skills were also tested.

The study involved 311 participants aged over 70 from the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging, Rochester, USA. One third of participants tested with considerably high levels of amyloid-beta deposits. The same people had high levels of the brain metabolites choline/creatine and myoinositol/creatine, which also tend to correlate with poor scores.

Dr Schott, commented: “If we could identify people in whom the disease process has started but symptoms have not yet developed, we would have a potential window of opportunity for new treatments to prevent or delay the start of memory loss and cognitive decline.”

Dr Kejal Kantarci, who carried out the study, said: “This relationship between amyloid-beta deposits and these metabolic changes in the brain are evidence that some of these people may be in the earliest stages of the disease.

“More research is needed that follows people over a period of years to determine which of these individuals will actually develop the disease and what the relationship is between the amyloid deposits and the metabolites.”