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Future Neurol. 2014 May 1;9(3):341-354.

What have novel imaging techniques revealed about metabolism in the aging brain?

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Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, Department of Pharmacology & Nutritional Sciences, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA.
Magnetic Resonance Research Center, Diagnostic Radiology & Biomedical Engineering, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA.


Brain metabolism declines with age and do so in an accelerated manner in neurodegenerative disorders. Noninvasive neuroimaging techniques have played an important role to identify the metabolic biomarkers in aging brain. Particularly, PET with fluorine-18 (18F)-labeled 2-fluoro-2-deoxy-d-glucose tracer and proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) have been widely used to monitor changes in brain metabolism over time, identify the risk for Alzheimer's disease (AD) and predict the conversion from mild cognitive impairment to AD. Novel techniques, including PET carbon-11 Pittsburgh compound B, carbon-13 and phosphorus-31 MRS, have also been introduced to determine Aβ plaques deposition, mitochondrial functions and brain bioenergetics in aging brain and neurodegenerative disorders. Here, we introduce the basic principle of the imaging techniques, review the findings from 2-fluoro-2-deoxy-d-glucose-PET, Pittsburgh compound B PET, proton, carbon-13 and phosphorus-31 MRS on changes in metabolism in normal aging brain, mild cognitive impairment and AD, and discuss the potential of neuroimaging to identify effective interventions and treatment efficacy for neurodegenerative disorders.


APOE4; Alzheimer’s disease; Aβ plaques; PET; aging; glucose metabolism; magnetic resonance spectroscopy; mild cognitive impairment; mitochondrial function

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