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Dementia affects the symmetry of the brain halves
It has long been known that the structures in the brain are massively impaired in the case of dementia such as Alzheimer's. Scientists at the Ludwig Maximillians University (LMU) in Munich have now demonstrated for the first time that the brain structures change asymmetrically in dementia. The asymmetries between the two halves of the brain could therefore be a biomarker for the early detection of the diseases.
Alzheimer's disease causes brain tissue to be lost. The hippocampus, which is crucial for memory and emotional processing, is particularly affected. The research team led by the neuroscientist Professor Christian Wachinger from the LMU "has now for the first time specifically investigated how the shape of the structures in the brain changes in the dementia disease," the LMU announced. The researchers published their results in the journal "Brain".
Analysis of brain structures using "BrainPrint"
Together with Dr. Reuter from the Marinos Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, the Munich-based researchers analyzed magnetic resonance imaging images from a large multi-center study. Both the affected and those without complaints participated in the study, reports the LMU. The researchers used the “BrainPrint” computer program they developed to analyze brain structures.
Asymmetries can be recognized early on
The evaluation showed that the asymmetries were greatest among "those whose dementia was most advanced and lowest among healthy participants," reports the LMU. According to study leader Wachinger, "the degree of asymmetry in the brain structures could be a biomarker at an early stage, which can predict the further development of the disease." The study has illustrated that the asymmetries between the two hemispheres develop early.
Extent of asymmetries indicating the severity of the dementia
"Our study shows for the first time that asymmetries in the hippocampus and amygdala are increasing in Alzheimer's patients and are thus a sign of the progression of the disease," emphasizes the professor of neurobiological research at the clinic and polyclinic for child and adolescent psychiatry, psychosomatics and Psychotherapy at the LMU. This finding could play a major role in diagnosing the disease in the future. "However, we have to understand the underlying mechanisms that are responsible for the development of the asymmetries even better," continued Professor Wachinger. (fp)