Early MRI May Cut Risk Of Long-Term Care Need

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A new study finds that MRI scans could be used to diagnose Alzheimer's disease in the early stages, which could lead to improved treatment. Every 72 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer's disease according to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, the industry trade group.

Researchers from the Cleveland Clinic report that the brains of people in the very early stages of Alzheimer's disease might become hyperactive to compensate for disease-related deterioration. The scientists tested mentally healthy adults, two-thirds of whom were at risk for Alzheimer's because of family history or genetic markers.

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MRI scans monitored the participants' brains as they were asked to recognize famous celebrities and unfamiliar people. The brain activity of at-risk people was then compared with that of those not at risk for Alzheimer's.

The researchers reported an increased level of activation of certain parts of the brain in at-risk individuals. They note this may reflect a compensatory brain response by these participants to the earliest stages of Alzheimer's disease. An estimated 5.1 million Americans have Alzheimer's which is one of the most costly causes of long-term care by older individuals.

Researchers noted that functional MRI scans might eventually be used to delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease by five years. They added that by delaying the onset by 10 years, Alzheimer's disease will virtually be eliminated because people will have passed away for some other reason. The findings are published in the current issue of Neurology.

Written by Jesse Slome from the American Association for Long Term Care Insurance

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