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Brain Changes Before Alzheimer Develops

Brain Changes Before Alzheimer Develops

Researchers have reported that children of Alzheimer's patients who are carriers of a genetic risk factor for the disease have neurological changes that are detectable long before clinical symptoms may appear.

Healthy children of Alzheimer patients show early brain changes, scientists reported in a recent study. By using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of the brain the researchers examined the symptomless carriers of the APOE-4 gene that indicates an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Thus, they were able to demonstrate that these patients had significantly reduced functional brain connectivity between the hippocampus and the posterior cingulated cortex, two important brain structures for memory processing. These structures are relevant for information acquisition, filtering and sorting.

The researchers studied 28 neurologically-normal subjects, between ages 45 and 65. Twelve carried the APOE-4 gene and 16 did not. The two groups showed no significant difference in age, educational level, or neuropsychological performances. All subjects received fMRI scans. For each subject, functional connectivity between the two brain structures was measured in a resting state. The results showed that functional connectivity in the non APOE-4 carriers was approximately 65 percent better than that of the carriers.

“Just as if cancer could be detected when there were only a few cells, decades before it was evident, the advantage of identifying those at great risk for having Alzheimer’s would be of tremendous value in development of interventional therapies,” says Doctor Shi Jiang Li, professor of biophysics, who led the study.

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