Can a novel computer simulation of human brain activity improve the diagnosis and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases?
Randy McIntosh, Ph.D.
Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care
Although Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are distinct diseases, some patients have overlapping clinical symptoms which can make diagnosis challenging. One of the major goals of ongoing brain research is to identify better ways to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease at their earliest stages, as well as to distinguish the two diseases from each other. Recent research shows that changes in brain activity occur in distinct patterns that can differentiate various neurodegenerative diseases. This suggests that changes in brain activity may serve as a biomarker to indicate the presence of disease at an early stage and could aid in the detection and diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases.
Randy McIntosh, Ph.D., and colleagues have developed a computerized system called TheVirtualBrain (TVB) that simulates changes in brain activity. The Virtual Brain integrates large amounts of information from brain images and brain activity to create models that simulate complex changes in human brain networks. The researchers will use brain imaging results already available from two large databases of people who have either Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. By analyzing the results that TVB produces, the researchers will determine if the simulation can detect and differentiate Alzheimer’s from Parkinson’s disease and provide new information on the underlying mechanisms that contribute to change in brain network activity.
The results of this research will improve our understanding of how Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease alter brain activity, and may reveal the shared and unique changes that occur in each disease. These findings may also lead to better ways of diagnosing and distinguishing the two diseases, and could help scientists identify new therapeutic strategies for the earliest stages of the disease.
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