A new brain scan may reveal the possibility of dementia

A British study claims that a 10-minute brain scan can detect dementia years earlier.

According to The Guardian, scientists scanned brain activity while “resting” and in a 9-year experiment, before the disease was diagnosed, it was estimated to be about 80 percent accurate.

If the results are confirmed in a larger cohort, the test could become a routine procedure in memory clinics, the scientists said.

Professor Charles Marshall, who led the work at Queen Mary University of London, said: “We’ve known for a long time that brain activity starts to change years before symptoms of dementia appear, and changes using an MRI scan.

The research comes as a new generation of Alzheimer’s drugs is on the horizon.

“Predicting who will develop dementia in the future will be vital to developing treatments that can prevent the irreversible loss of brain cells,” Marshall said.

Researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans of 1,100 volunteers at the UK Biobank to detect changes in the brain. The experiment measures connections in brain activity between different regions while the volunteer sits still and performs no specific task.

A network that reflects how effectively different regions communicate with each other is known to be particularly vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers also used artificial intelligence algorithms to determine the characteristics of at-risk individuals, with the aim of classifying them as “at-risk” or healthy.

Fundamental changes in the brain have been linked to known factors such as genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease and social isolation.

A simple brain scan, with recently developed blood tests that target proteins in the brain that cause Alzheimer’s disease, can take about 10 minutes, the team said.

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Dr Sebastian Walsh, who studies public health approaches to dementia prevention at the University of Cambridge, said the findings were “encouraging”, but said there were many factors that needed further research.

Among 100 people who developed dementia, Walsh noted, the average time between screening and diagnosis was 3.7 years. “What would be really important,” Walsh noted, “is to see these results demonstrated with larger samples and longer delays between screening and the onset of symptoms.”

Dr Richard Oakley, associate director of research and innovation at the Alzheimer’s Association, said the new technology could pave the way for earlier and more accurate diagnosis of dementia. But he added: “We need to see urgent investment in the NHS to improve dementia diagnosis.”

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