A study presented at this year's meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) shows that a new imaging technology can visualize the breakdown of brain connections in those with early Alzheimer's disease.
Researchers from Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., analyzed the results of 102 patients enrolled in a national study called the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative.
Each person had undergone tests using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) which can measure the integrity of white matter connections, as well as florbetapir positron emission tomography (PET) imaging, which measures the amount of beta amyloid plaque in the brain.
"Traditionally, Alzheimer's disease is believed to exert its effects on thinking via damage to the brain's gray matter, where most of the nerve cells are concentrated," said Jeffrey R. Petrella, MD, professor of radiology at Duke and senior author on the study, in a press release. "This study suggests that amyloid deposition in the gray matter affects the associated white matter connections, which are essential for conducting messages across the billions of nerve cells in the brain, allowing for all aspects of mental function."
Jeffrey W. Prescott, MD, PhD, a radiology resident at Duke and co-author of the study, added: "This study ties together two of the major changes in the Alzheimer's brain—structural tissue changes and pathological amyloid plaque deposition—and suggests a promising role for DTI as a possible diagnostic adjunct."