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Understanding Changes in Cholinergic Function: Implications for Treating Dementia

J Clin Psychiatry 2002;63(3):259-269

Professor Agneta Nordberg presented data establishing the use of positron emission tomography (PET) imaging to aid the early identification of functional deficits in patients with mild cognitive impairment, which may be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Unlike traditional imaging techniques (e.g., X-ray, computerized axial tomography [CAT] scanning), which provide only structural information, PET imaging techniques can identify functional abnormalities in the brains of patients with mild cognitive impairment by measuring deficits in the rate of cerebral glucose metabolism (CMRGlu). Recent data from a 2-year study conducted in 27 patients with mild cognitive impairment have highlighted the possible utility of PET scans to predict clinical outcomes.1,2 At the end of the study, 20 patients remained stable with mild cognitive impairment, while the remaining 7 patients progressed to AD. The clinical outcome had been accurately predicted by baseline CMRGlu findings in 25 cases out of 27, giving this technique a positive predictive value of 93%.