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Role of neuroimaging in dementia major focus of international symposium

Houston, TX - 10/1/2013

Nantz National Alzheimer Center hosts third annual conference

People predisposed to Alzheimer disease have excessive amounts of a protein called beta amyloid in their brains. This protein can be detected by a neuroimaging technique called brain PET. Houston Methodist Hospital’s Nantz National Alzheimer Center will focus on the role of neuroimaging in diagnosing different types of dementia during its Third Annual International Alzheimer Symposium on Oct. 16.

Current research focuses on whether removing amyloid from the brain years before patients are symptomatic will decrease their chances of getting the devastating neurological disease that now impacts someone in the United States every minute. “Neuroimaging: A window on the neurobiology and prevention of Alzheimer disease” will bring together Alzheimer disease clinicians and researchers from Europe and the United States to discuss the latest advances in neuroimaging of Alzheimer disease and other forms of dementia in aging. The meeting is organized by Dr. Gustavo C. Román, director of the Nantz National Alzheimer Center at Houston Methodist Neurological Institute.

Amyloid PET technology has allowed researchers to show that abnormal amounts of amyloid begin to deposit in the brain more than 20 years before the initial symptoms. There appears to be a point in the development of Alzheimer disease and other dementias, however, beyond which removing amyloid does not reverse or prevent cognitive decline. It is crucial that clinicians are able to detect brain amyloid before symptoms appear and make every effort with special antibodies to remove the amyloid deposits.

“Neuroimaging capabilities are allowing us to figure out ways to remove this plaque well before patients are symptomatic,” said Román. “Current research is targeting patients at least 15 years before they’re symptomatic, but should we be looking at patients even earlier than that? That’s a question our colleagues are asking.”

Joseph Masdeu, M.D., Ph.D., of the National Institutes of Health is one of the featured speakers, and will focus on unconventional markers of neuronal loss and on neuroimaging in Alzheimer disease prevention.

Other distinguished speakers include Jorge Barrio, from UCLA, who will comment on tau imaging; Kejal Kantarci, from Mayo, who will expound on amyloid PET; Bradford Dickerson, M.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital, who will discuss blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) imaging; Gitte Knudsen, of the Copenhagen University, who will describe other PET markers of neurodegeneration; William Seeley, M.D., University of California at San Francisco, who will focus on brain networks and neurodegeneration; Gaëlle Chetélat, Ph.D., Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, Caen, France, whose presentation will cover the role of FDG PET, and its relation with atrophy and amyloid deposition; as well as John Detre, from the University of Pennsylvania, who will elaborate on the use of the new MRI imaging technique he discovered, called arterial spin labeling.

An estimated 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer disease, and someone is diagnosed with the disease every 69 seconds. By 2050, experts say someone will be diagnosed every 33 seconds, raising total numbers to a staggering 11 to 16 million people.

The Oct. 16 symposium runs from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and will be held at the Houston Methodist Research Institute, 6670 Bertner Street. The symposium is free but registration is required, as seating is limited. For more information, click here.

Click here for more information on the Nantz National Alzheimer Center. For more information on Houston Methodist, call 713.790.3333 or visit www.HoustonMethodist.org. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.


Emmy Award-winning sports commentator, Jim Nantz, partnered with the Houston Methodist Neurological Institute to create the Nantz National Alzheimer Center. Jim and his wife, Courtney, work tirelessly to increase funding and generate awareness of the effects of concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), as well as later life dementia disorders and Alzheimer's disease. Jim has made a generous lifetime commitment to aggressively support research to find a cure for Alzheimer disease as a lasting tribute to Jim's father, Jim Nantz, Jr. who battled Alzheimer's for 13 years.