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Brain scans detect Alzheimer's in patients without symptoms

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Alzheimer’s disease may be able to be detected even when there are no symptoms of the most common type of dementia, a study has revealed.

Brain scans were taken of more than 300 people in their 70s and 80s who had no memory or thinking problems. They showed that a third of those who took part had significantly high levels of protein deposits in their brains, which can be linked to the degenerative disorder.

Those participants whose brain scans showed high levels of the proteins also had an abnormal amount of metabolic brain chemicals that can be linked to mental decline, according to the study published online in the journal Neurology.

Lead researcher Dr Kejal Kantarci, from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, US, said: “This relationship between amyloid-beta deposits and these metabolic changes in the brain are evidence that some of these people may be in the earliest stages of the disease.

“More research is needed that follows people over a period of years to determine which of these individuals will actually develop the disease and what the relationship is between the amyloid deposits and the metabolites.”



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Readers' comments (1)

  • the headline of this article is totally misleading.

    it has long been known that evidence of plaques and tangles may be found post mortem without prior dementia or cognitive decline. on the other hand everyone with a diagnosis of alzheimer's will have plaques and tangles post mortem. so the picture of biomarkers and dementia has always been complicated.

    saying everyone with amyloid beta has alzheimer's is like saying everyone with a runny nose has the flu. in fact it's worse than that, as we don't have conclusive evidence that amyloid b is a cause rather than a side effect.

    this research may lead to longitudinal studies that can distinguish between the individual factors that cause some people with plaques and tangles to develop alzheimer's, or other dementias, whilst other people with plaques and tangles do not.

    what this research does not do is detect alzheimer's in people who are otherwise symptom free.

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