Minneapolis (Minnesota) [US], November 16 (ANI): With new medications that can target the amyloid-beta plaques in the brain, which are an early symptom of Alzheimer's disease, new methods for determining whether memory loss and thinking issues are caused by Alzheimer's disease or another neurodegenerative disease are required.
A new study published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, demonstrates that shrinking in the hippocampal area of the brain is connected with cognitive impairment, even in those who do not have amyloid plaques in the brain. The hippocampus is involved in memory.
"These results suggest that neurodegenerative diseases other than Alzheimer's are contributing to this decline, and measuring the hippocampus volume may help us evaluate these causes that are currently difficult to measure," said study author Bernard J Hanseeuw, MD, PhD, of Harvard Medical School in Boston. "This could help us better predict who would respond to these new drugs as well as people's trajectories of cognitive decline."The study involved 128 people with an average age of 72 who had no thinking or memory problems at the start of the study. The participants had several types of brain scans throughout the study to measure the amount of amyloid plaques and tau tangles in their brains, as well as the volume of the hippocampus. The tau protein is another biomarker of Alzheimer's disease. The participants also had yearly cognitive evaluations over an average of seven years of follow-up.
Faster shrinkage in the hippocampus was associated with faster cognitive decline. When researchers looked at all of the biomarkers, they found that hippocampus atrophy was associated with cognitive decline independently of amyloid and tau levels. Hippocampus shrinkage on its own accounted for 10 per cent of the difference in cognitive decline.
"These results emphasize that dementia is a complex condition with many underlying causes and suggest that types of dementia other than Alzheimer's disease may contribute to shrinkage in the hippocampus and cognitive decline," Hanseeuw said.A limitation of the study was that most participants were highly educated and white people, so the results may not apply to all people.
The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health, Belgian Fund for Scientific Research, Welbio and Queen Elizabeth Medical Foundation.
The American Academy of Neurology is the world's largest association of neurologists and neuroscience professionals, with over 40,000 members. The AAN is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer's disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, concussion, Parkinson's disease and epilepsy. (ANI)