Brain changes linked with Alzheimer’s years before symptoms appear
In a records review of 290 people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease, scientists at Johns Hopkins say they have identified an average level of biological and anatomical brain changes linked to Alzheimer’s disease that occur three to 10 years — some even more than 30 years — before the disease’s first recognizable symptoms appear.
“Our study suggests it may be possible to use brain imaging and spinal fluid analysis to assess risk of Alzheimer’s disease at least 10 years or more before the most common symptoms, such as mild cognitive impairment, occur,” says Laurent Younes, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics at The Johns Hopkins University. A report of their findings was published online April 2 in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.
Younes cautions that brain changes vary widely in people, and that their research findings reflect an average level of such changes in a small group of research subjects. As a result, he says, the scientists cannot yet use them to draw any precise conclusions about brain changes in individual people. Nor, they say, are there any drug or other interventions yet known to slow or stop the disease process even if risk is identified early. But the work, he adds, could lead eventually to a test to determine an individual’s relative risk for Alzheimer’s disease and to guide the use of treatments when and if they are developed.