Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center

Combination scanning yields better diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment

April 15, 2009

A combination of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) can more accurately detect mild cognitive impairment (MCI) brain abnormalities in the early stages of their development than can either method used alone, a recent study finds. Early diagnosis of amnestic MCI is important because the condition is often a precursor to Alzheimer's disease (AD).

The researchers, from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the University of Pennsylvania, examined MRI and PET images from 30 elderly participants in NIA's Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging to distinguish people with aMCI from people who were aging normally. They looked at spatial patterns of brain atrophy and reduced blood flow in dozens of regions of the brain.

MRI data alone produced an 87 percent accuracy rate for aMCI diagnosis, and PET data alone produced a 50 percent accuracy rate. However, when the two were combined, researchers obtained a 90 to 100 percent accuracy rate—"an excellent diagnostic value" for this method.


Fan Y., et al. Structural and functional biomarkers of prodromal Alzheimer's disease: a high-dimensional pattern classification study. Neuroimage. 2008. 41:277-85.

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