Updated 2 June 2004
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Structural radiography. Magnetic resonance imaging can reveal brain tissue loss
patterns characteristic of Alzheimer’s, and is seen as a useful adjunct to standard
methods. MRI can help to differentiate AD cases from other types of dementia, particularly
frontal lobe dementia. Recent MRI studies confirm postmortem findings of marked
neuronal loss in specific areas of the entorhinal cortex at the earliest stages
of AD (see Juottonen
et al., 1998). It seems likely that this type of MRI diagnostics will become
an important tool for identifying individuals who can benefit from therapies to
delay or prevent the progression of the disease. Such tests should become available
at any large hospital with high-resolution MRI capabilities.
Functional radiography: Radiological tools that detect focal hypometabolism in the
brain have shown promising results, and are increasingly seen as useful adjuncts
in the differential diagnosis of AD. These tests involve somewhat invasive techniques(such
as injecting a low-level radioisotope into the blood) that are also expensive, although
not more so than full-battery neuropsychological testing. PET (positron emission
tomography) and SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) are available
at any hospital with a nuclear medicine division (see Read, S.L. et al., 1995; and
Small, G.W., 1996). Functional MRI has the advantage of being noninvasive, but is
still a research tool and not widely available.
See the Alzheimer's Association working group's Consensus Report on MRI and PET imaging for diagnosis of dementias.