In a new publication in Science Translational Medicine, the Jacobs and Johnson labs have employed longitudinal MR and PET imaging to show that the locus coeruleus is associated with features of Alzheimer’s Disease. Their work suggests that non-invasive imaging may be used to monitor cognitive decline.
The locus coeruleus, a small region in the brainstem, is known to accumulate abnormal tau proteins early in adulthood. This tau protein is one of the important causes of Alzheimer’s disease. Here, the Jacobs et al. used new MRI-methods to visualize the locus coeruleus during life and demonstrated that lower locus coeruleus integrity was associated with the initial accumulation of tau pathology, measured with positron emission tomography, and with memory decline. These findings have important implications for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease, as they suggest that locus coeruleus MRI-measures have the potential to identify individuals who are at-risk to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
See also this excellent summary of the work.