Could MRI Scans Predict Dementia?

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Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans could one day be used to predict whether older adults will develop dementia, suggests a small study conducted by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of California San Francisco. Although there is not yet a cure for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, this is significant because early diagnosis could help people make important life decisions while their reasoning is still sound.

Some current diagnostic evaluations for dementia are about 70 to 80 percent accurate, according to the researchers, and others, like positron emission tomography (PET) scans, are accurate but expensive and available to few patients. In this study, an MRI technique called diffusion tensor imaging predicted three-year dementia risk with 89 to 95 percent accuracy.

This study involved 20 people, average age 73. Cognitive skills had declined in 10 of them and had remained steady in the other 10. When the researchers analyzed diffusion tensor MRI scans taken two years prior, the scans showed significantly more damage to white matter in the brains of study participants who later developed dementia. These results were confirmed in a subsequent study involving 61 people.

Sourced from: Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis