A research programme based in the Trinity College Dublin Institute of Neuroscience has been allocated €1m from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) to further fund advanced imaging technology that targets early detection and prediction of Alzheimer’s disease.
The research group, led by Professor of Psychiatry Harald Hampel, in association with the Adelaide and Meath Hospital, has established a major international research programme that will use neuroimaging technology to find markers in the brain that are essentially a pre-cursor to Alzheimer’s.
The main focus of the research is to look at how the structural integrity of the physical wiring of the brain impacts on forming and retaining memories.
Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease of which exact causes and treatments are not known, but the result is neural degeneration and synapse death.
Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), which is being used by the research group, can detect how the brain is ‘wired’, and monitoring changes in this wiring can lead to early detection of Alzheimer’s.
Professor Hampel said: “A better understanding of normal brain function and Alzheimer’s disease could lead to future more effective and earlier diagnosis techniques and treatment strategy options for patients.”
The research team has also just completed a study looking into the effects of Alzheimer’s drug Galantamine (marketed variously as Nivalin, Razadyne, Razadyne ER, Reminyl) by using functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure changes in brain activity following its use. This research has just been published the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology.
Along with a growing ageing population, the increase in Irish patients with Alzheimer’s disease (although the illness is not exclusively age-related) will reach approximately 43pc within the next 20 years.
With this come increased costs for disease treatment, as well as patient care, making this research into diagnosis and analysis of drug treatments for the illness more important than ever.
By Marie Boran
Pictured: researchers will use neuroimaging technology to find markers in the brain that act as a pre-cursor to Alzheimer’s