Dementia and Brain Imaging.docx - Krista Young Psyc...

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Krista Young Psyc 301-7380 J. Gilbert 7/24/18 Dementia and Neuroimaging Abstract For many years there has been an association with increased age and cognitive decline, with dementia being a relatively new concept. While there are many structural changes that occur naturally with age, pathological changes that occur with dementias cause a greater insult upon the brain structure and function. Unfortunately, due to the natural changes that occur, differentiation between natural and pathologic changes has been slow developing. For many years, confirmation of a dementia diagnosis was only possible during a post-mortem exam. While there remains no definitive test for many of the dementia diagnoses, neuroimaging options have improved vastly. In conjunction with other diagnostic criteria, neuroimaging such as computed tomography (CT scans), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET scans) are now effectively used to view pathologic changes in function and structure associated with dementia. CT scans and MRIs allow physicians to view and measure progression of cerebral atrophy and PET scans are able to view the “cerebral blood flow, metabolism and receptor binding” [Ram18]. With these imaging techniques, physicians are now able to view the alterations in brain processes that lead to such symptoms as memory and cognitive impairment.
As one gets older, many organs and systems begin to go through physiological changes, resulting in functional deficits. With age, the kidneys gradually decrease in size, resulting in fewer functional glomeruli and a lower glomerular filtration rate. The myocardium becomes fibrous and stiff, resulting in decreased cardiac output and less blood circulated throughout the body. There is extensive knowledge regarding the physiologic changes of the body with age, but what about the brain? A significant understanding of the structural changes within the brain eluded experts far longer than any other organ. This made it more difficult to differentiate between normal physiologic changes within the brain versus pathologic changes associated with dementia. Previously, dementia related structural changes were only able to be identified on cadaver brains, but recently brain imaging has improved. Through the use of brain imaging, such as computerized tomography (CT scan), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron-

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