Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Pharmacological resting-state fMRI in aging and dementia

How can we implement the technique of pharmacological resting-state fMRI to improve the diagnosis of dementia?

2011 - 2015
This project is funded by the Netherlands Initiative Brain and Cognition (NIHC), a part of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO)
  • Leiden Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
  • Leiden Institute for Brain & Cognition (LIBC)
  • Centre for Human Drug Research (CHDR)
  • Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC)

Several neurotransmitters in the brain are affected in dementia and, to a lesser extent, in the process of healthy aging. Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers that allow for communication within the brain and recovery of neurotransmitter systems might therefore lead to improved brain functioning. In this randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled, crossover study we will influence the activity of the cholinergic and serotonergic neurotransmitter systems with a pharmacological challenge (the single dose administration of a drug) in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, healthy elderly and healthy young subjects.

The effects of these drugs are then visualized by resting state fMRI measuring functional connectivity within the brain. Accurate diagnosis of dementia is still complicated, especially in an early stage of the disease since existing methods (structural MRI and neuropsychological examination) are not sensitive enough. The results of this project might lead to:

  • Early detection of changes in brain function in patients with Alzheimer’s disease
  • Detection of changes in brain function in healthy aging
  • Differentiation between dementia patients and healthy subjects
  • Explanation of the relation between functional connectivity and cognition
  • Suggestions for treatment prediction plus monitoring and personalized medication


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