Brain size linked to early Alzheimer’s risk

December 28th, 2011 - 5:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 28 (IANS) Some people with good memories but smaller cortex - the frontal area of the brian - may have greater chances of developing symptoms of early Alzheimer’s, reveals a study.

“The ability to identify people who are not showing memory problems and other symptoms but may be at a higher risk for cognitive decline is a very important step towards developing new ways for doctors to detect Alzheimer’s disease,” said researcher Susan Resnick of the National Institute on Aging, Baltimore.

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital used brain scans to measure the thickness of regions of the cortex in 159 people free of dementia with an average age of 76. The cortex governs our intelligence, personality, motor functioning, problem solving skills and tactile sensations, the journal Neurology reported.

Of the 159 people, 19 were classified as at high risk for having early Alzheimer’s disease due to smaller size of particular regions known to be vulnerable to Alzheimer’s in the brain’s cortex, 116 were classified as average risk and 24 as low risk, according to a university statement.

The brain regions were chosen based on prior studies showing that they shrink in patients with Alzheimer’s dementia.

At the beginning of the study and over the next three years, participants were also given tests that measured memory, problem solving and ability to plan and pay attention.

The study found that 21 percent of those at high risk experienced cognitive decline during three years of follow-up after the MRI scan, compared to seven percent of those at average risk and none of those at low risk.

“Further research is needed on how using MRI scans to measure the size of different brain regions in combination with other tests may help identify people at the greatest risk of developing early Alzheimer’s as early as possible,” said study author and neurologist Bradford Dickerson, Massachusetts General Hospital.

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