Bristol dementia experts given £30k for state of the art imaging equipment upgrade

Alzheimer’s Research UK and CRICBristol have funded experts in Bristol to upgrade their MRI scanner for use in dementia research

Posted on 18th June 2014

Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, has contributed £30,000 towards upgrading the brain imaging equipment in Bristol. The state-of-the-art upgrade to the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner will allow researchers to create detailed images of the brain in people with Alzheimer’s disease. The upgrade, also supported by the Clinical Research and Imaging Centre (CRICBristol), a joint venture between the University of Bristol and University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, will help researchers understand what changes happen in the brain during Alzheimer’s.

The team is led by Prof Risto Kauppinen, Chair of Imaging at the University of Bristol. The researchers will use the new MRI machine to examine part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is vital for memory formation. The hippocampus shrinks abnormally during Alzheimer’s, leading to the distressing memory loss associated with the disease. The high-resolution brain scans provided by the upgraded scanner will allow researchers to detect Alzheimer’s-related changes to the hippocampus with greater accuracy.

The equipment may even allow for the detection of tell-tale brain changes before disease symptoms start to show. This could help researchers to identify people who are most at risk of developing Alzheimer’s, allowing them access to support and information, as well as the opportunity to get involved in research to test potential new treatments.

Prof Kauppinen said:

“Bristol is one of the leading centres in the UK for dementia research. This upgrade will allow us to make even more progress in high-tech imaging in recognising the brain changes which occur early on in Alzheimer’s disease. The upgraded machine will have shorter scanning times, making the process more comfortable for those being scanned.

“Having this equipment in Bristol will be of great benefit to the other dementia researchers who will be able to take advantage of the scanner. We hope the scanner will also be used in drug trials for Alzheimer’s, to determine whether the treatment being tested is having an effect on the brain.”

Dr Laura Phipps, Science Communications Manager at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, which affects thousands of people in the UK including over 4,000 people in the Bristol area alone. Identifying brain changes during Alzheimer’s is an important step towards understanding this devastating disease. This equipment has the potential to improve the timeliness of diagnosis, meaning that people could be given the opportunity to get involved in research at a time where they are most likely to benefit.

“Alzheimer’s Research UK relies entirely on the generosity of the public to fund its research and we are really pleased to be able to put that support to good use in Bristol. Research is key to providing a better future for people with dementia and their families but has been underfunded for a long time. We must change the perception that diseases like Alzheimer’s are a normal part of ageing and ensure that long-term funding for dementia research is top of the political agenda.”

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