There are a number of diseases and conditions that can cause mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or dementia, and correctly identifying the cause of the impairment as soon as possible gives the patient the widest range of therapeutic or treatment options possible. Advanced imaging technologies give doctors far more information and a more accurate understanding than ever before.
One specialized technique that uses Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is called 3-D volumetric quantitative analysis (NeuroQant, for short). Alzheimer’s disease is caused by shrinkage (atrophy) in a region of the brain called the hippocampus, which helps regulate emotions, manages long-term memory, and also plays a vital role in a person’s spatial navigation abilities. NeuroQuant MRI measures the volume of a patient’s hippocampus, as well as other brain structures, which are affected by other diseases and disorders, like Huntington’s or Parkinson’s disease, vascular dementia, and pseudo-dementia that can be caused by severe depression.
Another technique for pinpointing the cause of a cognitive dysfunction is functional imaging, which uses Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and Computed Tomography (CT) in combination to observe the brain’s function and see how well specific brain regions are using sugar or oxygen, which can reveal the site and cause of memory or problem-solving ability deficits. PET/CT imaging also lets a radiologist see what’s happening inside the brain at a molecular level, so they can identify or rule out cellular or chemical changes that indicate a specific disease.
Early diagnosis of the cause of cognitive impairment can help a patient begin treatment or therapy that can provide a longer period of healthier mental function.
For more information on this and other radiology procedures, please visit www.radiologyinfo.org.