The team looked at measurements of cortical thickness in the brain, an indicator of brain atrophy usually due to loss of neurons or their connections. Using MRI scans, they measured cortical thickness in several brain regions that had previously been shown to be associated with the injury due to early Alzheimer’s disease. In this case, these measurements were obtained in cognitively normal adults who were followed over time, allowing the researchers to assess whether cortical thinning in these regions tracked with their cognitive abilities.
Researchers found that individuals at high risk for preclinical Alzheimer’s Disease, based on reduced cortical thickness in these regions, were more likely to experience cognitive decline, which developed in 21 percent of cases, compared with 7 percent of average risk cases, and 0 percent of low risk cases.
“The ability to determine who is at greatest risk for Alzheimer’s Disease among cognitively normal older adults may allow us to better focus preventative interventions on these patients prior to their developing symptoms,” said study co-author David Wolk, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology and Assistant Director of the Penn Memory Center. “Further research is needed to explore whether this measure alone, or in combination with other diagnostic tools, bests predicts future development of Alzheimer’s Disease.”
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