Automated MRI technique assists in earlier Alzheimer's diagnosis

Jun 24, 2008

An automated system for measuring brain tissue with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can help physicians more accurately diagnose Alzheimer's disease at an earlier stage according to a new study published in the July issue of the journal Radiology.

In Alzheimer's disease, nerve cell death and tissue loss cause all areas of the brain, especially the hippocampus region, to shrink. MRI with high spatial resolution allows radiologists to visualize subtle anatomic changes in the brain that signal atrophy, or shrinkage. But the standard practice for measuring brain tissue volume with MRI, called segmentation, is a complicated, lengthy process.

"Visually evaluating the atrophy of the hippocampus is not only difficult and prone to subjectivity, it is time-consuming," explained the study's lead author, Olivier Colliot, Ph.D, from the Cognitive Neuroscience and Brain Imaging Laboratory in Paris, France. "As a result, it hasn't become part of clinical routine."

In the study, the researchers used an automated segmentation process with computer software developed in their laboratory by Marie Chupin, Ph.D., to measure the volume of the hippocampus in 25 patients with Alzheimer's disease, 24 patients with mild cognitive impairment and 25 healthy older adults. The MRI volume measurements were then compared with those reported in studies of similar patient groups using the visual, or manual, segmentation method.

The researchers found a significant reduction in hippocampal volume in both the Alzheimer's and cognitively impaired patients when compared to the healthy adults. Alzheimer's patients and those with mild cognitive impairment had an average volume loss in the hippocampus of 32 percent and 19 percent, respectively. Studies using manual segmentation methods have reported similar results.

"The performance of automated segmentation is not only similar to that of the manual method, it is much faster," Dr. Colliot said. "It can be performed within a few minutes versus an hour."

According to the Alzheimer's Association, more than five million Americans currently have Alzheimer's disease. One of the goals of modern neuroimaging is to help in the early and accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, which can be challenging. When the disease is diagnosed early, drug treatment can help improve or stabilize patient symptoms.

"Combined with other clinical and neurospychological evaluations, automated segmentation of the hippocampus on MR images can contribute to a more accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease," Dr. Colliot said.

Source: Radiological Society of North America

Explore further: Travel restrictions could worsen Ebola crisis: experts

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Untangling life's origins

Mar 11, 2013

Researchers in the Evolutionary Bioinformatics Laboratory at the University of Illinois in collaboration with German scientists have been using bioinformatics techniques to probe the world of proteins for answers to questions ...

Order from disorder

May 02, 2012

NPL and University of Leicester scientists have explored a new way of ordering proteins for materials engineering at the nanoscale, using natural biological phenomena as a guide.

Recommended for you

Travel restrictions could worsen Ebola crisis: experts

3 hours ago

Travel restrictions could worsen West Africa's Ebola epidemic, limiting medical and food supplies and keeping out much-needed doctors, virologists said Tuesday as the disease continued its deadly spread.

World 'losing battle' to contain Ebola: MSF (Update)

4 hours ago

International medical agency Medecins sans Frontieres said Tuesday the world was "losing the battle" to contain Ebola as the United Nations warned of severe food shortages in the hardest-hit countries.

Mutating Ebola viruses not as scary as evolving ones

4 hours ago

My social media accounts today are cluttered with stories about "mutating" Ebola viruses. The usually excellent ScienceAlert, for example, rather breathlessly informs us "The Ebola virus is mutating faster in humans than in animal hosts ...

War between bacteria and phages benefits humans

5 hours ago

In the battle between our immune systems and cholera bacteria, humans may have an unknown ally in bacteria-killing viruses known as phages. In a new study, researchers from Tufts University, Massachusetts ...

Ebola kills 31 people in DR Congo: WHO

7 hours ago

An outbreak of the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo has killed 31 people and the epidemic remains contained in a remote northwestern region, UN the World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday.

User comments : 0