Scientists develop new imaging tool to scan brain for common disorders

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Updated: August 09, 2016 4:49 PM

It may provide insights into the diagnosis and treatment of diseases such as epilepsy and Alzheimer’s

It may provide insights into the diagnosis and treatment of diseases such as epilepsy and Alzheimer’s

201608ehm30Scientists have developed a new approach to scan the brain for changes linked to common disorders, an advance that may provide insights into the diagnosis and treatment of diseases such as epilepsy and Alzheimer’s.

Certain changes in synapses, the junctions between nerve cells in the brain, have been linked with brain disorders. However, researchers have only been able to evaluate synaptic changes during autopsies.

For their study, the research team set out to develop a method for measuring the number of synapses, or synaptic density, in the living brain. Richard Carson, a professor at Yale University and colleagues combined positron emission tomography (PET) scanning technology with biochemistry.

They developed a radioactive tracer that, when injected into the body, binds with a key protein that is present in all synapses across the brain. They observed the tracer through PET imaging and then applied mathematical tools to quantify synaptic density.

The researchers used the imaging technique in both baboons and humans. They confirmed that the new method served as a marker for synaptic density. It also showed synaptic loss in three patients with epilepsy compared to healthy individuals.

PTI

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