Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Window Into The Brain: Diffusion Imaging MRI Tracks Memories And May Detect Alzheimer's At Early Stage

Date:
August 17, 2009
Source:
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Summary:
When we absorb new information, the human brain reshapes itself to store this newfound knowledge. But where exactly is the new knowledge kept, and how does that capacity to adapt reflect our risk for Alzheimer's disease and other forms of senile dementia later in our lives? A researcher in Israel has pioneered a new way to track the effect of memory on brain structure.

When we absorb new information, the human brain reshapes itself to store this newfound knowledge. But where exactly is the new knowledge kept, and how does that capacity to adapt reflect our risk for Alzheimer's disease and other forms of senile dementia later in our lives?

Dr. Yaniv Assaf of Tel Aviv University's Department of Neurobiology is pioneering a new way to track the effect of memory on brain structure. "With a specific MRI methodology called 'Diffusion Imaging MRI,' we can investigate the microstructure of the tissue without actually cutting into it," he explains. "We can measure how much capacity our brain has to change structurally, what our memory reserve is and where that happens."

His study, presented at the Annual Meeting of the Human Brain Mapping Organization in San Francisco, has been pivotal to the way scientists view the effect of memory on the brain. Scientists used to believe that the brain took days or weeks to change its microstructure. Dr. Assaf's new observations demonstrate that the microstructure can change in mere hours.

"It gives us a quantifiable measure of the plasticity of each individual brain," he says. "It's possible that before a person experiences any memory loss, the plasticity is affected — that is, the ability of one's brain to adapt to change. A lack of ability for change in the brain could mean susceptibility to dementia. Now, we have the means to monitor this ability."

The need for speed

In order to track changes in the brain, Dr. Assaf developed a study that focused on spatial learning and memory. "Usually, scientists distinguish between functional and structural plasticity," he says. Functional plasticity refers to neuronal activity in the brain, while structural plasticity refers to the physical shape of the brain itself. "From animal studies we know that spatial memory tasks have consequences for both."

First, study volunteers were scanned by Diffusion Imaging MRI. Then, they were asked to play two hours of a race-track video game, going over the same virtual race track 16 times. "This measured a special form of memory — spatial memory," says Dr. Assaf. "Each time they circled the track, the time they took to complete it decreased. At the end of the two hours, we put them back into the MRI to see the difference."

Dr. Assaf and his team saw a marked change measured by Diffusion Imaging MRI in the characteristics of brain microstructure. The memorization of the virtual race track affected the hippocampus, motor and visual areas of the brain. "The most striking thing about this study is that it shows structural plasticity happening in only two hours," he says. "This changes what we think structural plasticity is. It shows that memory is rapidly changing the structure of the cells, and that may lead to a lasting effect on the brain."

An early warning system for Alzheimer's disease and dementia

According to Dr. Assaf, most of the research on Alzheimer's disease and dementia focuses on its aftereffects. Diffusion Imaging MRI, he believes, could be used for early detection of the disorder.

"We can study the memory capacity of an individual at high risk for these disorders, and compare it to the morphological plasticity of people who are not at risk," Dr. Assaf says. "Such an approach may allow us to develop an intervention at an early stage, possibly in the form of drugs, one that may not be appropriate at a later stage." One parallel study, now being pursued in collaboration with Tel Aviv University's Prof. Daniel M. Michaelson, involves working with MRI and animals with mutations of Alzheimer's.

Dr. Assaf's work was done in collaboration with his Ph.D. students Yaniv Sagi, Tamar Katzir, Efrat Sasson and Ido Tavor.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Friends of Tel Aviv University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Friends of Tel Aviv University. "Window Into The Brain: Diffusion Imaging MRI Tracks Memories And May Detect Alzheimer's At Early Stage." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 August 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090812145022.htm>.
American Friends of Tel Aviv University. (2009, August 17). Window Into The Brain: Diffusion Imaging MRI Tracks Memories And May Detect Alzheimer's At Early Stage. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090812145022.htm
American Friends of Tel Aviv University. "Window Into The Brain: Diffusion Imaging MRI Tracks Memories And May Detect Alzheimer's At Early Stage." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090812145022.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) — The FDA is considering whether to ban devices used by the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts, the only place in the country known to use electrical skin shocks as aversive conditioning for aggressive patients. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) — A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — In a small study, researchers found that the majority of long-time smokers quit after taking psilocybin pills and undergoing therapy sessions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — A study for University College London suggests obese people who are discriminated against gain more weight than those who are not. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

      Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:  

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile iPhone Android Web
      Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins