At the moment, it is difficult to determine exactly who will develop dementia in their lifetime; however, researchers have identified a weak spot in the brain that shines light on the condition. The research team, led by Dr. Gwenaëlle Douaud of Oxford University, does caution that “much more research is needed into how to bring these exciting discoveries into the clinic”.
For this study, researchers examined MRI scans of 484 healthy volunteers aged between eight and 85 years, focusing on the grey matter in the brain. Grey matter in the brain coordinates “high order” information coming from the different senses, such as site and sound. The MRI’s revealed that this grey matter typically develops last but also is the first part of the brain to show neurodegeneration. Furthermore, researchers also determined that this part of the brain plays a role in schizophrenia as well.
“Early doctors called schizophrenia ‘premature dementia’ but until now we had no clear evidence that the same parts of the brain might be associated with two such different diseases. This large-scale and detailed study provides an important, and previously missing, link between development, ageing and disease processes in the brain,” said Prof Hugh Perry of the MRC. “It raises important issues about possible genetic and environmental factors that may occur in early life and then have lifelong consequences. The more we can find out about these very difficult disorders, the closer we will come to helping sufferers and their families.”