How Brain Mapping is Pushing the Limits Towards Understanding Neurological Diseases

With more than 47 million people worldwide suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia there is a growing need to identify the cause of these diseases as well as treatments for them. Millions of dollars have gone into the improvement of technologies and the research of brain mapping. At the USC Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute, Arthur Toga and Paul Thompson have been leading projects that are changing the world of neuroimaging. Toga and his team of researchers are on a quest to use digital imaging to map the brain. They believe that this type of detailed brain mapping will lead to solutions for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Recent developments have led these scientists closer to the goal of better understanding these diseases and providing a breakthrough in how to prevent them.

The USC Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute stores a large amount of data, about 53 years’ worth of high definition video. Through thousands of brain scans, USC scientists seek patterns of change. Their goal is to map out a healthy person’s brain and an ill person’s brain to see the variation between the two, pin pointing where in the brain things change when people suffer from neurological diseases. Toga hopes that through brain imaging, which can capture the blood flow and electrical activity of the brain, they can create a map that records these interactions. For example, the brain scans of those suffering from Alzheimer’s show buildup of amyloid protein in key parts of the brain, a signature of Alzheimer’s, even before these patients begin showing symptoms. By identifying these details, scientists start to identify connections between certain characteristics in different parts of the brain and certain illnesses. These connections are the key to discovering the causes of such diseases.

Another brain imaging study that is hoping to change the future of neurological diseases is ENIGMA, led by Paul Thompson. It is one of the world’s largest brain imaging studies, with a collaboration of experts from over 35 countries and thousands of daily patient brain scans. This project documents how a dozen diseases including depression, Alzheimer’s and Schizophrenia, alter the brain by mapping the healthy brain scans and the brain scans of those suffering from different stages of these diseases. ENIGMA uses computational algorithms to find markers of mental illnesses and brain diseases. The project recently used the brain scans and the DNA of 30,000 people around the globe and found eight genetic variants that determine the size of different regions of the brain. Scientists pooled images together to look for patterns and places where Multiple Sclerosis is most common, hoping to develop a theory of why and how it occurs. ENIGMA was also able to chart out the ways in which Alzheimer’s attacks a person’s brain in the early stages of the disease and the decline of control that results as an effect of this. ENIGMA hopes that both brain mapping combined with genetic clues will lead to new discoveries in drugs and medicine that will help treat these illness, one day even prevent them.

Illnesses such as Dementia and Alzheimer’s affect the personality and memories of those who suffer from them. There are special measures that need to be taken when those who suffer from these diseases reside in a nursing home or assisted living facility. These special measures include things such as constant supervision and special areas for their care. A common problem at nursing home facilities or assisted living facilities is under-staffing which can result in neglect of patients, especially those suffering from neurological diseases. Patients who suffer from these illnesses need extra care, facilities that are understaffed cannot provide this special attention, leaving these patients at a higher risk of injury.

If you or a loved one have faced abuse or neglect at a nursing home or assisted living facility such as one in Bellflower or Long Beach, CA please call the Law Office of Ben Yeroushalmi. We at the Law Offices of Ben Yeroushalmi are committed to fighting for the rights of the elderly and increasing their comfort. We believe that elderly with such illnesses should be treated with special care and their comfort and safety should be fought for.