Measuring Brain Volume to Predict Cognitive Decline

Contributed by: Dennis Fortier, President, Medical Care Corporation

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have published interesting findings in the journal Alzheimer's Disease and Associated Disorders suggesting that volume measurements computed from MRI images of the brain might be useful for predicting cognitive decline due to Alzheimer's disease (AD).

Their study followed 269 patients with MCI over a six-month period. They analyzed the relationship between tissue volume in three regions of the brain and the patients' scores on neuro-psychological tests. While the relationship between atrophy in one portion of the brain (the hippocampus) and cognitive decline has been suggested for some time, this study demonstrated that useful clinical information can also be drawn from measures of the amygdala and the temporal horn. Taken together, these volumetric measures constitute a useful bio-marker for clinical and research applications in cognitive health.

Using automated, software-driven measures of brain volume, this research suggests that physicians may now have an early clue as to whether or not a particular MCI patient will decline further with Alzheimer's disease. Such knowledge could enable more timely intervention and more effective treatment for AD in the near term.

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