Some have called this time a golden age of neuroscience. Advances in many areas, from molecular biology to genetics, have accelerated the pace of discovery far beyond what could be imagined a few decades ago. Behind many of the advances have been new technologies for imaging the brain.
Dr. Reisa Sperling
Colored areas of fMRI scan show AD brain activity
When Dr. Alzheimer first described this devastating brain disease, he relied on findings from a microscopic examination of a patient's brain tissue after she died. From that time until the 1980s, the brain with Alzheimer's disease remained a black box. Scientists could only see the characteristic brain pathology at autopsy. The development of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) has transformed neuroscience. Scientists can now see the size and structure of discrete parts of the living brain and can visualize brain function during cognitive tasks like reading or solving math problems. Even more importantly, they can track changes in brain structure and function over time, and compare images with the results of traditional paper-and-pencil tests of memory and cognition. A world of knowledge has opened up, bringing new possibilities for diagnosis, identifying targets for drug therapies, and suggesting methods for monitoring response to interventions.
Excerpted from THE ALZHEIMER'S PROJECT: MOMENTUM IN SCIENCE, published by Public Affairs, www.publicaffairsbooks.com.
In This Section
Momentum in Science: The Supplementary Series
- Understanding and Attacking Alzheimer's 12 min
- How Far We Have Come in Alzheimer's Research 15 min
- Identifying Mild Cognitive Impairment 20 min
- The Role of Genetics in Alzheimer's 12 min
- Advances in Brain Imaging 11 min
- Looking Into the Future of Alzheimer's 6 min
- The Connection Between Insulin and Alzheimer's 21 min
- Inflammation, the Immune System, and Alzheimer's 29 min
- The Benefit of Diet and Exercise in Alzheimer's 16 min
- Cognitive Reserve: What the Religious Orders Study is Revealing about Alzheimer's 20 min
- Searching for an Alzheimer's Cure: The Story of Flurizan 30 min
- The Pulse of Drug Development 15 min
- The DeMoe Family: Early-Onset Alzheimer's Genetics 25 min
- The Nanney/Felts Family: Late-Onset Alzheimer's Genetics 20 min
- The Quest for Biomarkers 17 min
Video: Inside the Brain: Unraveling the Mystery of Alzheimer's Disease
This 4-minute captioned video shows the progression of Alzheimer's disease in the brain.
Inside the Brain: An Interactive Tour
The Brain Tour explains how the brain works and how Alzheimer's affects it.
Alzheimer's Disease: Unraveling the Mystery
This book explains what AD is, describes the main areas in which researchers are working, and highlights new approaches for helping families and friends care for people with AD.
- About The Scientists
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- Rapid advances in our knowledge about AD have led to the development of promising new drugs and treatment strategies. However, before these new strategies can be used in clinical practice, they must be shown to work in people. Advances in prevention and treatment are only possible thanks to volunteers who participate in clinical trials.
- Among those touched by Alzheimer's (excluding self), nearly one-third provide support as a friend or relative, another 3% provide support as a healthcare professional, and the remaining two-thirds provide no support to the person suffering from Alzheimer's. When support is provided, it most often entails emotional support, followed by care-giving support. While small in comparison, more than one person in ten is providing financial support. Read more.