A novel Automatic MRI software package that compares an individual’s brain features with 1,200 other people in various stages of Alzheimer’s disease can help detect the early signs of the disease. The National Health Service (NHS), UK is trying out the state-of-the art technology at its medical centers in Croydon, Lambeth and Southward (south London).

Researchers at the National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre for Mental Health at the Maudsley Hospital, London, Kings College London, and the Karolinska Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden, developed the scan.

Initial trials have shown this technology has an 85% accuracy rate. Results take just 24 hours to come back.

Currently, health care professionals use specific memory tests which do not give particularly accurate results regarding Alzheimer’s.

Rob Howard, of Maudsley Hospital explained that early detection of Alzheimer’s allows for prompter treatment, it also gives patients time to put their houses in order. The test reassures those who do not have the disease much more quickly, a cause of considerable anxiety and distress.

Alzheimer’s Society (UK), in a communiqué, wrote:

“Doctors rely heavily on memory tests for diagnosing people with Alzheimer’s, which aren’t especially reliable. It’s therefore a positive step to see a new technology being tested that could diagnose Alzheimer’s earlier and more accurately. 750,000 people in the UK have dementia yet only 40 per cent receive a formal diagnosis. Getting an early diagnosis enables people with dementia to understand their condition, access treatments that could help relieve their symptoms and give them time to plan for the future.

This is also a great example of how scientific advancements can be translated into real benefits for people with dementia. We need more investment in research to bring better diagnosis and treatments to people with dementia as quickly as possible.

Alzheimer’s disease, also known as simply Alzheimer’s, and Senile Dementia of the Alzheimer Type (SDAT) is a neurologic disease of the brain which leads to loss of neurons, intellectual abilities, memory, and reasoning – signs and symptoms eventually become so severe that the patient is unable to functional at work or socially.

Plaques and tangles develop within the structure of the brain, causing the cells within it to die. Alzheimer’s patients have low neurotransmitter levels. Neurotransmitters are vital brain chemicals which are involved with the transmission of messages in the brain. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease – it gets worse with time. It is the most common form of dementia.

Although there is no current cure, there are ways of slowing down Alzheimer’s advance, as well as helping patients with some symptoms.

Alzheimer’s eventually causes death – it is a terminal disease.

Written by Christian Nordqvist