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Computer-Aided MRI Might Help Predict Alzheimer's
Date:10/5/2010

By Madonna Behen
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Oct. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Sophisticated brain imaging techniques may help doctors one day identify which patients with mild cognitive impairment are likely to progress to Alzheimer's disease, Swiss researchers report.

Using a combination of specialized MRI scans and an artificial intelligence technique, radiologists at University Hospitals of Geneva said they were able to predict which patients had mild cognitive impairment that was likely to progress to Alzheimer's as opposed to stable mild cognitive impairment.

"Medication against Alzheimer is presumably most effective when given early in the disease progress," noted lead researcher Dr. Sven Haller, a radiologist in the department of diagnostic and interventional neuroradiology. "Our results help to identify subjects at risk for cognitive decline at an early stage, which might result in an earlier and more specific treatment."

For the study, published online Tuesday in advance of the December print issue of the journal Radiology, Haller and his colleagues examined specialized MRI scans of 35 healthy individuals, with a mean age of 64, and 69 patients with mild cognitive impairment, mean age of 65. All the patients had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment based on a battery of neuropsychological tests. To determine which patients had progressive versus stable mild cognitive impairment, the tests were repeated one year later.

Using a specialized technique called susceptibility-weighted MRI, Haller's group found that patients with mild cognitive impairment had a greater number of tiny leaks, or microbleeds, in the blood vessels of their brains than did control participants. The researchers found microbleeds in 33 percent of individuals with stable mild cognitive impairment and 54 percent of those with progressive mild cognitive impairment, versus only 14 percent of the control participants.

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