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2010 Grants - Brickman
An Ex-Vivo MRI Study of White Matter Hyperintensities in Aging and Alzheimer's Disease
Adam M. Brickman, Ph.D.
Columbia University Medical Center
New York, New York
2010 New Investigator Research Grant
The progression of Alzheimer's disease may involve damage to white matter in the brain. White matter is a kind of complex "wiring system" that connects nerve cells in different brain regions with one another. Damage to white matter often appears on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans as patches called white matter hyperintensities (WMH). These patches likely reflect significant brain blood vessel disease.
In research with autopsied human brain tissue, Adam M. Brickman, Ph.D., and colleagues have found that white matter hyperintensities are increased in people at risk for Alzheimer's. Moreover, people who already have this disease possess even higher WMH levels. These increased levels occur primarily in the brain's posterior parietal cortex, and they may be associated with an individual's rate of cognitive decline.
For their proposed grant, Dr. Brickman and colleagues plan to conduct a more extensive WMH study of autopsied brain tissue. The researchers will take MRI scans of tissue from 34 people with Alzheimer's and 14 cognitively normal people. Analysis of the scans will seek to verify whether people with Alzheimer's have greater WMH concentrations in their parietal regions than do normal people. The researchers also hope to determine the exact pathology underlying these concentrations; and to identify any associations between WMH levels and various hallmarks of Alzheimer's—including cognitive loss and harmful clumps of the protein fragment beta-amyloid.
Dr. Brickman's team believes their efforts may lead to larger MRI-based white matter hyperintensity studies. Ultimately, this line of research could produce novel ways of diagnosing and treating Alzheimer's disease.