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Brain size may be an important predictor for Alzheimer’s disease

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Brain size may predict who will develop Alzheimer's disease, finds new study.

Researchers say they may have found another tool for discovering who is at highest risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease by measuring the size of the cortex in the brain.

According to the finding, published in the journal Neurology, shrinkage in the cortex occurs before memory problems develop in correlated with later development of Alzheimer’s disease in study participants.

In this study researchers used MRI brain scans to determine the size of the cortex in 159 people whose average age was 76.

None of the study participants had signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

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During the three year follow-up, 21% developed cognitive decline that were considered high risk for the disease, compared to just 7 percent considered low-risk. None of the participants considered not at risk developed memory problems.

Study author Bradford Dickerson, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and a member of the American Academy of Neurology said the finding could be combined with other tests to try to find out who might develop Alzheimer’s disease.

Measuring proteins in cerebrospinal fluid was also linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Sixty percent of people with elevated levels were found to be at risk for cognitive decline, also found in the study.

Detecting Alzheimer’s disease can be challenging for clinicians. The study shows MRI could help find out who is at risk for the devastating disease. People whose brain cortex is small may be at highest risk for dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Image credit: Wikimedia commons