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Can An MRI Diagnose Dementia?

You cannot turn on TV news or read news articles every day and not be confronted with questions about the cognitive state of our President.  This entry, as per the usual, is not about my personal political beliefs, but rather, exploring health issues and how to diagnose/treat/prevent them.

There is not a day that goes by that reporters, politicians and others are questioning whether a “brain scan” has been performed on our President to explore whether there is, in fact, a “cause” for his debate performance and other concerning patterns of speech/behavior that have been observed.  The “brain scan” being referred to is an MRI.   First, what is an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)?

 MRI is a type of diagnostic test that can create detailed images of nearly every structure and organ inside the body. MRI uses magnets and radio waves to produce images on a computer. MRI does not use ionizing radiation.  Images produced by an MRI scan can show organs, bones, muscles and blood vessels.

A brain MRI can be used to evaluate people with declining cognition to rule out disorders other than Alzheimer’s Disease including:

  • Normal pressure hydrocephalus
  • Stroke
  • Vascular disease
  • Brain tumors

In the case of dementia, the MRI will often show cortical atrophy (outer part of the brain).  An amyloid PET scan is a better test to evaluate whether Alzheimer’s Disease is present. Should everyone displaying cognitive decline be subjected to an MRI of the brain? 

I believe this depends on the age of a person, other medical conditions present and the assessment as to whether a potentially correctable process can be diagnosed/treated.  

As far as whether every Presidential candidate above a certain age be subjected to an MRI of the brain?  Hmmm….I bet if I asked for comments I would get LOTS of them!

To try to end this entry on a more calming note ( I am certain I did raise the blood pressure of a number of people reading this entry), here is a soft song about memory.  Enjoy a tune from the show “CATS”.

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