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Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer`s Versus Brain Atrophy

06/03/2003

Question:

How can you tell the difference between brain atrophy and the beginning of Alzheimer`s?

Answer:

Brain atrophy is an anatomical description of brain matter when visualized on a CAT Scan or MRI. Simply put, it means that the size of the brain is shrinking. Volume loss is occurring. This shrinkage can be caused by many different things ranging from normal aging to Alzheimer`s Disease and several other disease states. The determination of the cause of the atrophy is made based on clinical exam, diagnostic tests and by what part of the brain is affected or has lost the most volume. Certain diseases cause shrinkage in specific areas of the brain. Alzheimer`s disease is often characterized by shrinkage in the temporal and parietal lobes of the brain and moves in later stages to the frontal lobes. Just having this pattern, however, does not definitively describe Alzheimer`s Disease. This pattern, although highly suggestive of AD, must be correlated with clinical findings. Alzheimer`s disease can only be determined definitively on autopsy when brain cells are looked at under a microscope and found to form plaques and tangles, which are the hallmarks of the disease.

Related Resources:

University Memory and Aging Center

For more information:

Go to the Alzheimer's Disease health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Leighanne K Hustak, ND, CNP Leighanne K Hustak, ND, CNP
Formerly
Case Western Reserve University

Paula K Ogrocki, PhD Paula K Ogrocki, PhD
Assistant Professor of Neurology
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University