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Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2012 Apr;2(4):a006213. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a006213.

Brain imaging in Alzheimer disease.

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  • 1Departments of Radiology and Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA.


Imaging has played a variety of roles in the study of Alzheimer disease (AD) over the past four decades. Initially, computed tomography (CT) and then magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) were used diagnostically to rule out other causes of dementia. More recently, a variety of imaging modalities including structural and functional MRI and positron emission tomography (PET) studies of cerebral metabolism with fluoro-deoxy-d-glucose (FDG) and amyloid tracers such as Pittsburgh Compound-B (PiB) have shown characteristic changes in the brains of patients with AD, and in prodromal and even presymptomatic states that can help rule-in the AD pathophysiological process. No one imaging modality can serve all purposes as each have unique strengths and weaknesses. These modalities and their particular utilities are discussed in this article. The challenge for the future will be to combine imaging biomarkers to most efficiently facilitate diagnosis, disease staging, and, most importantly, development of effective disease-modifying therapies.

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