During the course of study, the researchers used the 3D-imaging technique to analyse magnetic resonance imaging data from 24 patients with amnestic mild cognitive impairment, and 25 others with mild Alzheimer's disease.
Patients in both categories exhibit progressive brain atrophy, with most MCI patients showing the pathologic changes characteristic of Alzheimer's. MCI patients slip into dementia at a rate of 10 to 15 per cent each year.
The researchers found that patients with mild Alzheimer's had 10 to 20 per cent more atrophy in most cortical areas than did MCI patients.
Writing about their study in the journal Archives of Neurology, the researchers said that the results suggested that the innovative three-dimensional mapping technique greatly outperformed other popular 3D imaging techniques such as voxel based morphometry.