Biomarkers and ultra-high-field imaging for early detection of dementia

The earlier the diagnosis is made, the better the prognosis of neurodementia will be. However, for this new methods are required for managing diseases like Alzheimer's.


Philips Scheltens, professor in Neurology at the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam, summarised in one sentence the general concept that currently exists of neurodementia when he stated that a couple of years ago people would come to the memory clinic and ask if they were becoming insane. “Today they ask if they will one day suffer from dementia...”

While 36 million people suffer from dementia in the World, and every year 7.7 million new cases unfold, clearly these are figures which will increase as the population grows older. This is why early diagnosis of Alzheimer disease is so important and biomarkers – the highlight of Philip Scheltens's address – play a leading part in timely detection, since they are changing the structural scope of Alzheimer's.

The Dutch speaker delivered his talk at the symposium on “Mind, Cognition and Neurodegeneration”, which addressed several topics associated with neurodegenerative diseases, including the aforementioned biomarkers, as well as functional imaging.

Before him, Stefano Cappa, professor and director of the Biomedics Class at Instituto Universitario di Studi Superiori de Pavia, had addressed the issue of progressive disability of cognitive procedures as the mark of neuro-degeneration, which, combined with the evidence drawn from researching stroke patients and functional neuro-imaging in normal individuals, have contributed to current knowledge about the neural substrate of mental procedures.

According to the Italian specialist, studies of the early stages of Alzheimer's diseases provide new insight into the mechanisms of episodic memory, while patients with frontotemporal dementia have played a crucial part in researching large networks involved in language and social cognition. Such theoretical progress has produced a clear impact on prevention, diagnosis and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

Roland Beisteiner, physician at the Neurology Department and head of the High Field MRI Centre of Excellence of Vienna University, highlighted the benefits of ultra-high-field imaging (7Tesla) for functional imaging of dementia. Pedro Vilela, neuroradiologist at Hospital da Luz, in turn, presented the results of work conducted on neuroimaging in dementia, and concluded that diagnosis requires biomarkers and that functional neuro-imaging is moving towards molecular testing technology.