Can a novel computer simulation of human brain activity improve the diagnosis and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases?
Dr Randy McIntosh
Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care
Although Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are distinct diseases, some patients have overlapping clinical symptoms which can make diagnosis challenging.
One of the major goals of ongoing brain research is to identify better ways to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease at their earliest stages, as well as to distinguish the two diseases from each other.
Recent research shows that changes in brain activity occur in distinct patterns that can differentiate various neurodegenerative diseases.
This suggests that changes in brain activity may serve as a biomarker to indicate the presence of disease at an early stage and could aid in the detection and diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases
Why is this important?
The results of this research will improve our understanding of how Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease alter brain activity, and may reveal the shared and unique changes that occur in each disease.
These findings may also lead to better ways of diagnosing and distinguishing the two diseases, and could help scientists identify new therapeutic strategies for the earliest stages of the disease.
What will they do?
Dr Randy McIntosh and colleagues have developed a computerised system called TheVirtualBrain (TVB) that simulates changes in brain activity.
The Virtual Brain integrates large amounts of information from brain images and brain activity to create models that simulate changes in human brain networks.
The researchers will use brain imaging results already available from two large databases of people who have either Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
By analysing the results that TVB produces, the researchers will determine if the simulation can detect and differentiate Alzheimer’s from Parkinson’s disease and provide new information on the underlying disease processes that contribute to change in brain network activity.
This project is funded through a global funding partnership, called Biomarkers Across Neurodegenerative Disease, between Alzheimer’s Research UK, Alzheimer’s Association, The Michael J Fox Foundation and the Weston Brain Institute.