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Magnetic resonance spectroscopy in Alzheimer's disease: focus on N-acetylaspartate

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This paper reviews published post-mortem brain and in-vivo proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) studies in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and focuses on the emerging role of N-acetylaspartate (NAA) as a prognostic marker of neuronal function. Post-mortem brain studies have reported significantly lower NAA levels in AD brains than in control brains, and some have correlated the low levels with neuropathological findings (i.e. amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles). Similarly, almost all published in-vivo studies have reported lower NAA levels in AD patients compared to elderly controls. While some studies have found changes in metabolite levels that were considered useful for the diagnosis of AD, most have found that 1H-MRS provided little or no advantages over other, more common diagnostic tools. Instead, recent studies in AD and other neuropsychiatric disorders suggest that NAA may be more useful as a prognostic marker for monitoring neurodegeneration, stabilization, or improvement, and for evaluating therapeutic response to novel drugs.

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Keywords: 1H-magnetic resonance spectroscopy; Alzheimer's disease; N-acetylaspartate (NAA); choline; myo-inositol; proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy

Document Type: Original Article

Affiliations: 1: Departments of Psychiatry and Medicine (Geriatrics), 2: Department of Radiology, Duke University Medical Center

Publication date: 01 December 2000

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