Research Gains for Atypical Alzheimer’s



August 2015

Alzheimer’s disease holds a number of unknowns for researchers, particularly the more rare atypical variants of the condition. Even basic information about how to detect the disease and where it forms remains a mystery. But recent research published in Radiology may have taken a step forward in understanding some forms of the disease.

The study found that white matter deterioration could be a reliable biomarker for atypical variations of the disease. Although traditional Alzheimer’s is characterized by memory deterioration, other forms of the disease can affect a variety of brain regions, causing changes in the ability to speak and read. Lead author Francesca Caso, MD, of San Raffaele University in Milan, Italy, and her colleagues used diffusion tensor imaging to assess white matter degeneration in 53 patients diagnosed with atypical Alzheimer’s disease. The goal was to identify similarities and differences among Alzheimer variants.

Caso and her team found that every patient with atypical Alzheimer’s showed similar patterns of severe white matter degeneration and regional gray matter damage, as well as atrophy in the cortical region. Meanwhile, patients with typical Alzheimer’s present with more damage in the medial temporal structures. Although atypical Alzheimer’s is nearly impossible to predict, this research suggests physicians may be able to detect the disease through white matter atrophy, even before gray matter deteriorates and symptoms show.

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