MR technique shows brains of Alzheimer's patients similar to immature brains in children

John H. johnh at
Wed May 7 11:44:34 EST 2003

Is that what Christ meant when he said, unless ye become as little children
you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven?

White matter damage is common in TBI, probably a kinetic process but it does
appear that ogcs are particularly sensitive to insult, moreso for immature
ogcs or those actively engaged in remylineation, which I believe is an
ongoing process anyway. This study below doesn't provide sufficient evidence
but white matter damage probably plays a larger role in AD than previously
thought as white matter may serve to maintain a higher rate of inflammation
than neurons.

John H.

Public release date: 7-May-2003
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Contact: Keri Sperry
ksperry at
American Roentgen Ray Society

MR technique shows brains of Alzheimer's patients similar to immature brains
in children
A new MR imaging technique used to study white matter in the brain has found
something intriguing--the brains of Alzheimer's patients show some of the
same signs as the immature brains of children.
Diffusion tensor MR imaging examinations were performed on 60 normal
persons, ranging in age from infancy to late adulthood, says Jeffrey Lassig,
MD, of the University of Michigan, and lead author of the study. The part of
the brain that connects the two halves of the brain was studied. When the
brain is immature the water molecules in the white matter of the brain move
(diffuse) more freely. As the brain ages, the water molecules seem more
constrained, he says.

"When we compared 13 Alzheimer's patients' brains to 13 others of the same
age with no signs of dementia, the Alzheimer's patients' brains showed
significantly higher water molecule diffusion.

In other words, the Alzheimer's patients' white matter behaved more like the
white matter of a child's brain than that of a normal adult," says Dr.
Lassig. However, the increased diffusion in Alzheimer's patients is most
likely related to damage or dysfunction of axons (white matter tracts),
while the higher water diffusion in the white matter of children is a normal
phenomenon in immature brains, he says.

Diffusion tensor MR imaging is a new technique which may help physicians
find white matter disease earlier in dementia, perhaps even before symptoms
are obvious, notes Dr. Lassig. "This technique could also take us a step
closer to determining the cause of Alzheimer's disease," he adds. Currently,
the death of neurons in the brain is suspected as the cause of symptoms in
Alzheimer's disease, with white matter damage a secondary consequence of the
neurons dying. No-one knows for sure, and this issue needs further study,
Dr. Lassig says.

"This new technique, when used in combination with imaging to specifically
evaluate the death of neurons, may provide new information about how the two
processes interact," says Dr. Lassig.

Dr. Lassig will present the study on May 7 during the American Roentgen Ray
Society Annual Meeting in San Diego.


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