Mental maturity scan tracks brain development

Five minutes in a scanner can reveal how far a child’s brain has come along the path from childhood to maturity and potentially shed light on a range of psychological and developmental disorders, scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown.

HIV infection prematurely ages the brain

HIV infection or the treatments used to control it are prematurely aging the brain, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of California-San Diego have found. Blood flow in the brains of HIV patients is reduced to levels normally seen in uninfected patients 15 to 20 years older.

New imaging technique stands brain injury research on its head

Mechanical engineers at Washington University in St. Louis and their collaborators have devised a technique on humans that for the first time shows just what the brain does when the skull accelerates. What they’ve done is use a technique originally developed to measure cardiac deformation to image deformation in human subjects during repeated mild head decelerations.

New imaging techniques help guide liver surgery

Image courtesy of William C. Chapman, M.D.William Chapman monitors his surgical instrument’s position on corresponding CT scans during liver surgery.Despite being the largest vital organ in the body, the liver has very few identifiable landmarks to help guide a cancer surgeon around its surface. Two-dimensional ultrasound images currently are the standard navigational tool, making it difficult to discern depth and location in the liver during surgery to remove tumors. That’s why a research team led by William C. Chapman, M.D., professor of surgery and chief of the Abdominal Transplantation Section at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis plans to launch trials examining the use of three-dimensional imaging techniques to complement ultrasound during liver surgery. The research team will investigate standard three-dimensional imaging techniques like MRI, CT scanning and PET for guiding surgeons during tumor removal surgery.

Brain changes in Alzheimer’s disease

At the time of the first MRI scans, the turquoise color shows areas of the hippocampus in patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease that are shaped differently than in healthy older people. Two years later, even more changes have occurred, represented by the purple color.Even when people have no symptoms, their brains already may be dotted with the plaques and tangles that characterize Alzheimer’s disease. As treatments to halt the progress of Alzheimer’s disease appear on the horizon, scientists are looking for new ways to identify Alzheimer’s-associated changes in the brain before cognitive decline begins. By examining brain images, researchers, led by John G. Csernansky, M.D., the Gregory B. Couch Professor of Psychiatry, and Lei Wang, Ph.D., research associate in psychiatry, both at Washington University’s Silvio Conte Center for Neuroscience Research, found that the volume and shape of certain brain structures change in different patterns during Alzheimer’s disease than in healthy aging. They believe that someday using these imaging techniques may allow for earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, preferably before the most devastating symptoms appear.