Brain imaging technique could help identify those who will develop Alzheimer's

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Researchers have discovered a way to predict whether someone with cognitive decline will develop Alzheimer's disease: They measure the size of certain areas of that person's brain, according to a new report.

An automated process called Volumetric MRI measures the brain's memory centers, the report from the University of California, San Diego, found. Those brain areas, which include the hippocampus, amygdala and temporal horn, are then compared to their "expected size." According to researchers, patients with mild cognitive impairment that experience atrophy in those areas of the brain are much more likely to progress to Alzheimer's disease. Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is considered a transitional stage between the forgetfulness associated with normal aging and Alzheimer's disease.

The fully automated process provides an objective observation of three areas of the brain. This is more effective than traditional, subjective physician interpretation of regular MRIs, which tend to focus solely on the hippocampus. The technique can be readily used in clinics, according to the report, which appears in the June issue of the journal Alzheimer's Disease and Associated Disorders,.