Alzheimer's disease has been linked in many studies to amyloid plaque buildup in the brain, but new research is finding a common thread between amyloid burden and lower energy levels, or metabolism, of neurons in certain areas of the brain associated with Alzheimer's disease-even for people with no sign of cognitive decline. This is a new development in the understanding of Alzheimer's pathology, say neuroscientists unveiling the research at the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging's 2013 Annual Meeting.
"This study shows that there is an association between hypometabolism and amyloid in the brains of normal people," said Val J. Lowe, MD, a professor of radiology at Mayo Clinic Cancer Center based in Rochester, Minn. "Previous studies indicate that hypometabolism of this same pattern is present in patients who have abnormalities of the gene apolipoprotein E, or APOE. The hypothesis is that people who have these genetic abnormalities tend to have hypometabolism and are on the trajectory toward developing Alzheimer's disease. Hypometabolism does appear to be an early harbinger of the disease before dementia sets in."