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2016 Grants - Strange
The Healthy Elderly Brain: MRI Predictors for Developing MCI
Bryan Strange, Ph.D., M.B.B.S.
Technical University of Madrid
2016 New Investigator Research Grant
Can specific changes detected by brain imaging predict who is at risk for developing mild cognitive impairment?
Currently, by the time a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease there may already be irreversible damage to the brain. Therefore, one of the major goals of research into Alzheimer’s disease is to identify biomarkers that can detect people who are at high risk of developing the disease in the future. Early detection may allow treatment or changes in lifestyle that can help prevent the brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
There is an ongoing research project in Spain in which over a thousand healthy older people are followed for long periods of time to study why some of the individuals go from healthy to developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or Alzheimer’s. MCI is a condition in which an individual may have some memory or thinking deficits, but not enough to affect his or her ability to perform daily functions independently. Some, but not all, people who have MCI progress to Alzheimer’s disease. Participants in the study have their brain structure and function assessed every year using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Other information is also collected about these individuals, including possible genetic links to Alzheimer’s disease and lifestyle factors that may influence risk.
Bryan Strange, Ph.D., M.B.B.S., and colleagues will use a sophisticated computer system, along with the existing data from Spain, to develop novel ways to predict which healthy older people may be most likely to develop MCI. The researchers will enter the brain imaging data, as well as information about genetic and lifestyle risk factors, into the computer system. The computer system will predict which people are at highest risk and then compare those predictions with the actual results from long-term follow-up. This will allow the researchers to identity brain imaging biomarkers that can accurately predict who may develop MCI long before an individual has any symptoms.
Using this technique and taking advantage of large datasets that are already available, Dr. Strange and colleagues will work to improve on current methods for predicting who may develop MCI or Alzheimer’s disease. Such progress may allow potential treatments to be administered well before disease-related brain changes occur. In addition, having knowledge of one’s risk may help motivate individuals to make lifestyle changes that could impact cognitive decline.