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2014 Biomarkers Across Neurodegenerative Diseases Grant (BAND)

Subcortical Shape Analysis for Joint Biomarker Discovery

Boris Gutman, Ph.D.
USC/University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA - United States

One of the major goals of ongoing brain research is to identify accurate and reliable ways to detect the presence of diseases — such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s — in their earliest stages. In this regard, one of the most promising avenues of research is the use of brain imaging, which provides a non-invasive way to assess brain changes in living people. Unfortunately, some of the same changes visible on brain images of people who have Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease are also observed in people who have no symptoms of disease.

Researchers have been developing increasingly sophisticated ways of analyzing brain images, toward the goal of finding subtle changes on brain images that most accurately indicate and differentiate the presence of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. One of these methods is known as shape analysis, in which researchers use sophisticated computer programs to outline and analyze specific regions of the brain thought to be affected by disease.

Boris Gutman, Ph.D., and colleagues have proposed using shape analysis in an effort to identify specific changes in the brain indicative of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s or both. They plan to focus on parts of the brain known to be strongly affected by either disease — parts found deep inside the brain in an area known as the subcortical region. They will examine the brain changes that are distinct for each disease and compare them to those that are overlapping for both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

In addition, Dr. Gutman and colleagues plan to use sophisticated statistical methods to combine large amounts of data from shape analysis on several regions in the brain to obtain unique ‘signatures’ of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease respectively. Such signatures may be useful not only for diagnosing disease, but also for monitoring disease progression and the effectiveness of potential treatments being studied in clinical trials.

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