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Breakthrough Research Finds a New Way to Detect Dementia

New research that appears in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry recently adds medical literature present on dementia and shows a method of monitoring the progression of the disease in people with Parkinson’s disease.

Previously, different studies have identified a number of symptoms that are associated with Parkinson’s as well as other forms of dementia including the inability to perform complex actions, cognitive decline, and memory loss.

However, these symptoms typically do not appear in earlier stages of the disease and may be diagnosed when it has developed or caused irreversible negative impacts on the health.

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In patients who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, doctors usually use brain image which shows a loss in sections of the brain but these too can show the progression of the issue in late stages.

Therefore, keeping up with the progress or looking at the effects of the prescribed medication and treatment on the disease is difficult for doctors and health professionals. Now, the new study suggests an alternative way to track development.

According to the National Institute on Aging, people with Parkinson’s disease have a build-up of protein in their brains which is also common in other forms of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease.

In the new study, the researchers saw that the build-up of the protein in the brain is associated with the iron levels present in the brain.

The leading author of the study, Dr. Rimona Weil from the Queen Square Institute of Neurology and University College London states “Iron in the brain is of growing interest to people researching neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and dementia.”

She adds “As you get older, iron accumulates in the brain, but it’s also linked to the buildup of harmful brain proteins, so we’re starting to find evidence that it could be useful in monitoring disease progression, and potentially even in diagnostics.”

Instead of using conventional brain imaging to monitor the loss of parts of the brain, the researchers used a new way with magnetic resonance imaging called ‘quantitative susceptibility mapping’

The method was tested in ninety-seven participants who had been living with Parkinson’s disease for ten years and thirty-seven participants of the same had who did not have the health condition.

Both of the groups were required to undergo tests for memory, cognitive function, and motor function to check movement and balance. After the tests, quantitative susceptibility mapping was used to check iron deposits in the brain of the participants which was later compared to their testing scores.

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It was discovered that higher deposits of iron in the brain were associated with poor performance on different tests depending on where the deposits were located.

The participants with deposits near the thalamus or hippocampus in the brain, for example, did not score well in memory and thinking tests as both of these areas control both of these factors.

The leading author of the study, George Thomas, comments on the potential benefits of these findings for the diagnosis of dementia in the future, saying:

“It’s really promising to see measures like this, which can potentially track the varying progression of Parkinson’s disease, as it could help clinicians devise better treatment plans for people based on how their condition manifests.”

The researchers also state that they may investigate the participants further to understand the mechanism behind iron deposits and the progression of Parkinson’s disease.


Areeba Hussain

The author is a fulltime medical and healthcare writer. She graduated in Medical Microbiology and Immunology with distinction. Her areas of prime interest are medicine, medical technology, disease awareness, and research analysis. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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