Preclinical Diagnosis of DAT by Brain Mapping
John Csernansky, MD Washington University
The disease processes causing dementia of the Alzheimer's type (DAT) are thought to exist in the brain for several years before clinical symptoms appear. Brain-scanning techniques are being applied with increasing accuracy to identify early changes in brain structure that might precede a clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Dr. Csernansky has used these methods to study subjects with very early AD symptoms. He has already detected changes in the shape of the brain and a shrinkage of the hippocampus, one of the areas most affected by AD. He is now performing tests to determine whether these methods can predict the course of the disease. High-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and brain mapping will be performed on healthy elderly subjects between the ages of 55 and 90. The subjects are being followed for several years to determine the onset and degree of dementia symptoms. Also, because a mutation in the ApoE gene is a risk factor for developing AD, the predictive power of the brain scans will be assessed with and without testing for the ApoE mutation. If Dr. Csernansky's hypothesis is correct, the diagnosis of AD could be made earlier in the disease process, which could lead to earlier and more successful treatments for AD.