July 28, 1999 ROCHESTER, MINN. - A Mayo Clinic study has shown that 50 percent of a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment who also have a significantly smaller hippocampus portion of the brain are likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as compared to nine percent of patients with a normal size hippocampus.
The study marks the first time quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been used to assess the risk of developing typical late-onset Alzheimer’s disease in elderly patients with a mild cognitive impairment.
The hippocampus is a part of the brain that plays a central role in memory function and also shows some of the earliest damage resulting from Alzheimer’s disease. In the study, Clifford Jack, M.D., a Mayo Clinic radiologist and the study’s principle author, and a team of Mayo Clinic researchers measured the volume of the hippocampus of patients with a clinical diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment. Prior studies have shown that many of these patients will progress to Alzheimer’s disease in the future.
"This study provides valuable information for patients who are concerned about forgetfulness and whether their memory impairment will lead to Alzheimer’s disease," says Dr. Jack. "We are able to non-invasively measure the part of the brain that we know shrinks with the advent of Alzheimer’s disease and provide some indication to patients whether their chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease are high, low or in-between."
"Planning for the future is very important to elderly patients and their families," says Dr. Jack. "This information can help patients and families make future arrangements. It may also help us identify people who would benefit from interventional treatment before the onset of overt Alzheimer’s disease, with the goal of delaying or preventing patients from declining into Alzheimer’s disease."
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