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Key Mechanism of Common Cognitive Disorder Revealed in Brain MRI

In patients suffering from symptomatic carotid artery disease, an assessment of brain MRI scans and cognitive examination results have found that disruption in the communication networks of the brain is a key mechanism of vascular cognitive disorder.


Cognitive exam results and the MRI brain scans from 108 patients suffering from symptomatic carotid artery disease were assessed by the researchers at the University of Nottingham in Nottingham, UK for the study, which was published online in the September 2016 issue of the journal of Radiology. Fifty-three of the patients suffered from cognitive impairment. Also in the study, the results also confirmed that MRI scans could be used to help improve the diagnosis of patients with common cognitive disorder.


There was a clear correlation between the cognitive performance of the patients and chronic vascular disease-related lesions in white matter tracts of the brain, the researchers found. White matter tract skeleton mean diffusivity is a useful tool to improve the diagnostic accuracy of vascular cognitive disorder, the researchers also concluded. This is because it offers a close correlation with impaired cognitive performance.


When it comes to vascular cognitive disorder, it is harder to distinguish from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, but is becoming more and more common in the elderly. The researchers plan to continue the track of progression of sub-cortical disconnection, and look for changes in the patients over time.


Sub-cortical disconnection is a key mechanism of vascular cognitive disorder, according to conclusions the researchers found. The result us a breakdown of communication in the large scale cognitive neural networks of the brain.


Senior author of the study, Dorothee P. Auer, Ph.D., University of Nottingham, said, “Using standard clinical brain MRI, we found that microscopic damage of main white matter tracts allowed us to distinguish patients with symptomatic carotid artery disease and cognitive impairment from those who were cognitively intact. Our findings mean that a simple MRI test might improve the diagnostic work-up of people with suspected vascular cognitive disorder, and holds further promise to track progression of the disorder.”




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