Scientists find a new early sign of Alzheimer’s in the brain

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In a new study from the University of Texas at Dallas, researchers found a potential new early indicator of the decline toward Alzheimer’s disease: measuring the energy metabolism of the living human brain using cutting-edge imaging techniques.

The scientists devised a unique way to illustrate energy consumption and reserves in the brain with an ultra-high-field 7 Tesla MRI scanner.

Their results suggest that neurological energy metabolism might be compromised in mild cognitive impairment (MCI), the stage of decline between healthy aging and more serious disease states like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

In the study, the researchers theorize that the energy level disturbance occurs early in Alzheimer’s disease, based on prior post-mortem work that indicated the metabolism deficit is lower in earlier stages of Alzheimer’s than it is in severe cases.

41 participants—15 cognitively normal, 15 with MCI and 11 with early Alzheimer’s—underwent assessment of executive function, memory, attention, visuospatial skills and language.

The researchers’ scans of the participants’ temporal lobes indicated that the ratio of PCr to ATP—which was referred to as the energy reserve index—correlated with the participants’ cognition levels.

The team found the energy reserve was lower in patients with mild cognitive impairment and lower still in those with Alzheimer’s.

While 7T MRI machines are not yet widely available for routine clinical evaluation of patients, the team that the techniques used in the research study could be adapted to more commonly available 3T machines.

They hope to determine if the abnormal brain energy metabolism has a link with the accumulation of beta-amyloid and tau in the future.

If you care about Alzheimer’s disease, please read studies about how to slow down Alzheimer’s disease at the earliest stage and findings of blood sugar metabolism linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

For more information about Alzheimer’s disease prevention and treatment, please see recent studies about common heartburn drugs may increase risk of Alzheimer’s disease and results showing that new drug that may help treat heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s.

The study is published in Frontiers in Neuroscience. One author of the study is Dr. Namrata Das.

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