Variations in Brain Functional Complexity Across Neurodegeneration

Sponsor: Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research

Location(s): United States


Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease are two examples of neurodegenerative diseases; these diseases are characterized by gradual loss of brain structure and function over time. Although most individuals with neurodegeneration are usually diagnosed with a single disease, many individuals actually exhibit features of more than one condition. For instance, increasing evidence suggests that Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease share some common biological features, and individuals can show an overlap of symptoms in the late stages of disease, which can make a definitive diagnosis more difficult.

One of the major goals of ongoing brain research is to identify accurate and reliable biomarkers of specific brain disease. A biomarker is something that can be measured in a living person to indicate the presence of disease. Examples include specific aspects of brain images, or specific proteins in the cerebrospinal fluid, the fluid that surrounds nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

Norbert Schuff, Ph.D., and colleagues have proposed work to accurately identify specific brain diseases as well as differentiate coexisting diseases in people with neurodegeneration. The researchers plan to analyze data from two existing databases holding information about people with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Schuff and colleagues will analyze brain images that provide information about brain functional activity. They will assess how changes in brain functional activity are related to changes in disease biomarkers in the cerebrospinal fluid. One of the goals of this research is to improve our understanding of both the shared and unique features of different neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The results may help in the future development of effective treatments to prevent, halt or slow disease progression in mixed neurodegeneration.