What can imaging tell us about cognitive impairment and dementia?

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Abstract

Dementia is a contemporary global health issue with far reaching consequences, not only for affected individuals and their families, but for national and global socio-economic conditions. The hallmark feature of dementia is that of irreversible cognitive decline, usually affecting memory, and impaired activities of daily living. Advances in healthcare worldwide have facilitated longer life spans, increasing the risks of developing cognitive decline and dementia in late life. Dementia remains a clinical diagnosis. The role of structural and molecular neuroimaging in patients with dementia is primarily supportive role rather than diagnostic, American and European guidelines recommending imaging to exclude treatable causes of dementia, such as tumor, hydrocephalus or intracranial haemorrhage, but also to distinguish between different dementia subtypes, the commonest of which is Alzheimer's disease. However, this depends on the availability of these imaging techniques at individual centres. Advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques, such as functional connectivity MRI, diffusion tensor imaging and magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and molecular imaging techniques, such as 18F fluoro-deoxy glucose positron emission tomography (PET), amyloid PET, tau PET, are currently within the realm of dementia research but are available for clinical use. Increasingly the research focus is on earlier identification of at risk preclinical individuals, for example due to family history. Intervention at the preclinical stages before irreversible brain damage occurs is currently the best hope of reducing the impact of dementia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-254
Number of pages15
JournalWorld journal of radiology
Volume8
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Mar 2016

Keywords

  • Dementia
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Molecular imaging
  • Frontotemporal dementia
  • Lewy body dementia
  • Vascular dementia

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