Alzheimer's-related brain changes occur 2 decades before symptom onset

January 27, 2016

Inflammatory brain changes related to Alzheimer's disease may occur as many as 20 years before onset of symptoms, according to new research - a finding that could pave the way for early interventions that could halt disease development.

...To reach their findings, which are published in the journal Brain, the team scanned the brains of more than 50 participants using positron emission tomography (PET).

Some of the study participants were at higher risk for Alzheimer's due to having relatives with gene mutations related to the disease, while some patients had non-inherited, "sporadic" Alzheimer's.

All subjects were injected with three radioactive tracer molecules prior to PET scans - PIB, Deprenyl and FDG - which allowed the researchers to track plaque levels and inflammation related to activation of astrocytes, the most common support cell in the brain. Additionally, the researchers measured the glucose metabolism in participants' brains, providing insight into brain cell function.

PET scans were repeated for half of the participants 3 years later, allowing the team to assess brain changes over time, and all subjects were required to complete memory tests.

Read the full article.