Using diffusion MRI technique as a tool in the early detection of Alzheimer's Disease

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Dale, Ryan
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Alzheimer's Disease (AD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that currently affects an estimated 500 000 Canadians, a prevalence that is expected to double within the next 25 years. It is projected that AD will impact the lives of one in every three Canadians over the age of 80. This disease is responsible for billions of dollars of healthcare spending every year and represents a massive burden for the patient, their family and the healthcare professionals involved in their care. Currently, the diagnosis of any progressive dementia as Alzheimer's Disease has been based on clinical findings; a designation that can only be confirmed via post-mortem autopsy, where the presence of accumulated beta-amyloid plaques, neurofibrillary tangles and astrocytic gliosis can be confirmed. These microstructural changes have been so far undetectable in the early stages of the disease, before the clinical aspects of the dementia are manifested and a method that would allow the early detection of these changes could represent an invaluable tool. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is a type of MRI imaging that focuses on the movement of water through tissues. DTI has shown great versatility as a diagnostic tool and may be useful in the differential diagnosis of AD. This research project is aimed at exploring the utility of using DTI to detect the changes associated with Alzheimer's Disease using a transgenic animal model of AD. With earlier detection, the opportunities for drug discovery and other therapeutic interventions become possible.