Harvard Health Letter

Brain scan shows best time to treat plaque

Researchers are zeroing in on the time frame to help reduce the risk of brain plaques that may cause problems with thinking skills. A study published online Feb. 27, 2013, in Neurology used repeated PET scan imaging to show buildup of plaques in the brain made of beta-amyloid. These plaques are found in Alzheimer's disease and are linked to a decline in memory and thinking abilities. The study found that, regardless of age, once beta-amyloid begins to form deposits in the brain, it does so rapidly—often without the person showing any cognitive problems—and then slows down before plateauing at high levels. Researchers say the buildup takes about 15 years. This period could prove to be the best time to use drugs that target beta-amyloid. Several studies are under way to see if screening for beta-amyloid in the brain among younger adults with no signs of dementia, and treating those with lots of beta-amyloid, will help slow plaque production.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »