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When it comes to memory processing, scientists have been able to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to observe changes in the brain. Previously, researchers observed the medial temporal lobe (MTL) portion of the brain as it activated during memory task.

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center set out to identify brain regions related to memory and to map changes in those areas of the brain as memory impairment occurs in Alzheimer’s patients. The study involved 13 patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease, 34 patients with mild cognitive impairment, and 28 healthy control subjects. There were 37 men and 38 women with the mean age of 72.9 years. After completing standard neuropsychological testing, the study participants were monitored with fMRI while performing a face-name associative memory task.

What was anticipated is that the MTL region would show less activity in the Alzheimer’s patients. What was not anticipated is that there would be a correlation in the reduction of activity in the posteromedial cortices (PMC), an area recently implicated with personal memory.

The researchers suggest that instead of looking at the inhibited MTL for a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, a better representation of the disease would be to look at the PMC for signs of it not deactivating as it should.