Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Brain networks and the initial stages of dementia

Dementia is a progressive disease, diagnosed at a relatively late stage when intervention may not be effective. Aim of the research is to study scans of brain networks to help discover the early network changes related to dementia. Early diagnosis may benefit effectiveness of future treatment.

Serge Rombouts
The Netherlands Organisation of Scientific Research

Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition

The research is focused on finding changes in the brain in dementia as early as possible. In recent years we have studied changes in brain structure, in brain connections and in so-called ‘functional brain networks’ . All three techniques revealed important information about advanced dementia brains.

Functional brain networks are of special interest in relation to dementia. A functional brain network is a collection of brain regions that are functionally connected. Functional connections are essential for brain function.

This ‘resting state FMRI’ technique may be particularly sensitive to detect changes in individual brain integrity in early phases of dementia.

In the coming years Prof. Rombouts wants to investigate this further, in collaboration with his colleagues in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Nijmegen and Leiden. With the VICI research grant it is possible to apply the most advanced scanning and analysis techniques for brain structures and functional networks in patients. Further, Prof. Rombouts wants to study structural and functional brain scans of volunteers who are at risk (or even certain) to develop dementia later in life, to see whether the scans can reveal early dementia changes in the brain before symptoms become visible. If so, these scans could be useful for early diagnosis.

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