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Study identifies brain injury as a cause of dementia in some older adults

MRI Scan

A UCLA-led study finds that, with the use of MRI scans, it is possible to distinguish between memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease and traumatic brain injury.

Researchers from UCLA, along with colleagues at Washington University in St. Louis, say the finding is important because it could help prevent a misdiagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, which can be devastating for patients and their families.

The current study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, involved 40 UCLA patients with an average age of just under 68, who had suffered traumatic brain injury, or TBI, and later developed memory problems. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2.87 million Americans experienced TBI in 2014, with the rates highest for people age 75 or older. Children age 4 and younger, and adults age 65 and older were most likely to suffer serious brain injuries after a fall.

“We already knew that MRIs can reveal subtle abnormalities in patients with neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s,” said Dr. Somayeh Meysami, UCLA. “The purpose of our study was to evaluate whether MRI also could reveal distinct abnormalities in traumatic brain injury. And, if we could identify such a pattern, it would lead to improved diagnosis of TBI-related memory loss from other causes of dementia.”

“The method we used to measure brain volumes in these individuals is useful because it can be applied on the same type of MRI scans we obtain in the clinic with no special type of imaging required,” Dr. Raji said.

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