Study identifies best tests to predict Alzheimer's

Wed Jun 30, 2010 6:52pm EDT
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By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Combining a specific imaging test of the brain with a memory recall test appears to be the best predictor so far of Alzheimer's disease, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday.

The findings were culled from a large, ongoing study testing various brain imaging tests and biomarkers that aims to identify which patients with cognitive problems will progress to Alzheimer's disease.

"When you look at them all independently, they are all useful for predicting conversion (to Alzheimer's disease) and decline," said Susan Landau of the University of California, Berkeley, whose study appears in the journal Neurology.

"The novel thing we did was put them all together in the same statistical model and compared them to see which were the most useful," she said in a telephone interview.

For the study, researchers did memory and brain scan tests on 85 people with mild cognitive impairment who were part of the larger Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative study.

The tests included an episodic memory test, in which the patient must correctly remember a list of words. People were also tested to see if they had a variant of the APOE gene linked with Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers did magnetic resonance imaging or MRI scans to measure brain volume in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory. They also measured proteins called tau and beta-amyloid linked with Alzheimer's disease.

And they did an imaging test called positron emission tomography or PET to test for brain function by looking to see how well the brain uses glucose or sugar.   Continued...