Researchers, for the first time, have shown, using a new imaging technique based on Magnetic Resonance Imaging(MRI), how Alzheimer's attacks the brain over time. Until now, MRI was used to show how Alzheimer's disease shrinks the hippocampus, a key area of the brain for memory and learning. And post-mortem studies revealed how the disease devastates even larger brain areas. This is the first time a three-dimensional time lapse video of the progress of Alzheimer's disease in living patients has been produced.
Research teams from Los Angeles and the University of Queensland, Australia studied a group of 12 Alzheimer's patients and 14 healthy controls. They used changes in MRI scans over a period of two years to create three-dimensional videos, which shows brain damage spreading like wildfire through the Alzheimer brain. They found that there was sequential distribution of brain areas starting with the areas that are concerned with memory followed by emotional and inhibition control, and finally sensation. But areas controlling vision and some other functions are spared.
The information available through this new technique can currently only be obtained indirectly, through cognitive testing. Researchers believe the new approach promises a better way of diagnosing and monitoring Alzheimer's disease.