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2011 Grants - Vemuri
Functional Reorganization of the Brain: Response to Alzheimer's Pathology?
Prashanthi Vemuri, Ph.D.
2011 New Investigator Research Grant
Increasingly sophisticated imaging techniques have enabled scientists to study subtle processes and abnormalities in the brain. One technique, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), can now detect tiny alterations in the chemical activity that connects brain cells of different regions. These alterations may represent disease-related changes to synapses and other neurological structures involved in brain cell communication. During Alzheimer's disease, synaptic changes occur at very early stages of the disease, and they can reveal important information about how Alzheimer's progresses over time.
For this study, Prashanthi Vemuri, Ph.D., and colleagues will use multiple imaging techniques to identify changes in brain function among a group of elderly participants. This group will include cognitively healthy people, people with Alzheimer's disease, and people with mild cognitive impairment — a condition that often precedes Alzheimer's. Specifically, the team will use (1) 11C Pittsburgh compound B positron emission tomography (PIB-PET) imaging to measure brain levels of beta-amyloid plaque, a key hallmark of Alzheimer's; (2) structural MRI to measure damage to neurons and synapses; and (3) fluorodeoxyglucose (18F FDG) PET to detect abnormalities in brain cells' functions. The results of these research efforts could point to novel ways of diagnosing and treating dementia.