'Big Data' Study Discovers Earliest Sign of Alzheimer's Development


Scientists at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital have used a powerful tool to better understand the progression of late-onset Alzheimer's disease (LOAD), identifying its first physiological signs.

Led by Dr. Alan Evans, a professor of neurology, neurosurgery and biomedical engineering at the Neuro, the researchers analysed more than 7,700 brain images from 1,171 people in various stages of Alzheimer's progression using a variety of techniques including magnetic resonance imaginer (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET). Blood and cerebrospinal fluid were also analysed, as well as the subjects' level of cognition. 

The researchers found that, contrary to previous understanding, the first physiological sign of Alzheimer's disease is a decrease in blood flow in the brain. An increase in amyloid protein was considered to be the first detectable sign of Alzheimer's. While amyloid certainly plays a role, this study finds that changes in blood flow are the earliest known warning sign of Alzheimer's. The study also found that changes in cognition begin earlier in the progression than previously believed.

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