A Better MRI Test to Study Aging

Senior man lying down in scanning machine with red cross on head

The research group developed new approaches that transformed the MRI into a measuring device that can quantify and characterize changes in the biological composition of brain tissue – methods called quantitative MRI.

THE EXTERNAL PHENOMENA of aging are known to all of us. We can expect graying hair, bone loss, fatigue or memory difficulties.

But what actually happens to our brain as we get older, and what goes wrong when aging develops into a neurological disease like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s? This is a primary focus of neurological specialists around the world working to map the brain and unlock its many mysteries.

Previous animal studies have shown that molecular changes in the composition of lipids and proteins in brain cells affect brain function and may cause cognitive impairment. Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, scans allow us to look into the human brain in a non-invasive manner and learn about the changes that occur in it with age.

For example, many studies show that brain volume decreases as we get older, or earlier in patients with different neurological diseases. However, while the clinical MRI provides an image to estimate the volume of the brain, it cannot quantitatively measure what actually changes in the molecular composition of the human brain with age, and what distinguishes normal aging from the ravages of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.

Our research group at the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has developed new approaches that transformed the MRI from a “camera of the brain” into a measuring device that can quantify and characterize changes in the biological composition of brain tissue – methods called quantitative MRI.

Instead of producing images of the brain, we use biophysical models to obtain brain maps that contain quantitative information about the tissue, such as changes in the water content and the molecular composition of the brain, just as…

This article was sourced from US News.

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