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NYU Medical Center researchers’ recent study focused on energy metabolism in the brain because little work has been done in this area and recent studies indicate that this may be a good clinical indicator for those who are susceptible to Alzheimer’s.

In the past 2 decades brain energy metabolism studies have shown that Alzheimer’s disease patients have a significant reduction in certain regions of the brain. Recent studies suggest that a reduction of brain energy metabolism may appear in healthy individuals years before they show any signs of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The study involved 49 cognitively normal individuals, from 50 to 80 years-old. The participants underwent a battery of neuropsychological and clinical tests and a  positron emission tomography (PET) scan using a special chemical tracer. Of the study group 16 participants had a mother with the Alzheimer’s, 8 had a father with the disease. The remaining 25 subjects had no family history of Alzheimer’s.

Researchers already knew that someone with a parent who has Alzheimer’s has a 4 to 10 times higher probability of developing the disease. Why a higher risk for developing the disease is unknown.

People with a mother who has Alzheimer’s showed the greatest reduction of brain energy metabolism in the same regions that are affected by the disease. The brain energy metabolism was reduced by 25%. There was not any reduction in brain energy metabolism in the people without a family history and in those with a father who had the disease. From all indications an individual is at a higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease if their mother also has the disease.

Researchers feel that more studies need to be done before this approach can be used in a clinical setting as a predictor for developing the disease.