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2006 Grant - Sperling
Impact of Amyloid Burden on Memory-Related fMRI Activation
Reisa Sperling, M.D.
Brigham and Women's Hospital
2006 Investigator-Initiated Research Grant
Beta-amyloid is a protein fragment that may be a key factor in damaging cell-to-cell communication and causing the loss of brain cells in Alzheimer's disease. Researchers have learned much about the toxic properties of beta-amyloid in cell cultures, and studies with genetically altered mice with an Alzheimer-like disorder have revealed much about links between disease pathology and memory deficits. It has been difficult, however, to study and characterize the association between beta-amyloid burden-the degree of amyloid deposition in the brain-and cognitive deficits in people with Alzheimer's disease.
Currently available imaging tools may help address this issue. Positron emission tomography (PET) has been refined with the development of Pittsburgh compound B, a substance that latches on to beta-amyloid and "lights up" in a PET scan. Another tool, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), can indicate degree of brain function while a person is doing a memory-related task.
Based on data from previous fMRI studies, Reisa Sperling, Ph.D., and colleagues identified certain patterns of brain activity that may be early indicators of memory impairment associated with Alzheimer's disease. In this study, the researchers will gather fMRI and PET imaging data from people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI, a disorder generally defined as a measurable decline in memory with no other dementia symptoms, may be an early indication of Alzheimer's or a risk factor for developing the disease. The researchers will assess whether there is any correlation between memory-related brain dysfunction and amyloid burden. Findings may fill critical gaps in our understanding of disease pathology and symptom presentation.