Results from a brain imaging study at the Imperial College of London have brought us one step closer to comprehending how the of the mind works. In particular, scientists have gained some insight into brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, which required them to scan healthy subjects before they developed symptoms.
The new study has allowed researchers to identify more than 30,000 significant associations in the brain. After analyzing brain imaging data and thousands of measures of lifestyle, physical fitness, and cognitive health measures plus physical data such as body-mass-index ( BMI ) and bone density, they collected results that are giving us a better understanding of the brain’s reactions, including a notable link between higher blood pressure and greater alcohol consumption and factors that could reflect damage to the brain’s connections.
What can we learn about diseases like Alzheimer’s from brain imaging?
Photo courtesy of Imperial College London
“We are using cutting-edge MRI scans and Big Data analysis methods to get the most comprehensive window into the brain that current imaging technology allows.” said Professor Karla Miller from the University of Oxford. “These results are just a first glimpse into this massive, rich dataset will that emerge in the coming years. It is an unparalleled resource that will transform our understanding of many common diseases.”
Researchers found patterns of strong associations between higher blood pressure, greater alcohol consumption, and multiple factors that could reflect injury to connections in the brain. Additionally, another pattern linked alcohol and tobacco, and changes in red blood cells and cardiac fitness, to brain imaging signals associated with increased iron deposits in the brain.
This “biobank” will be the world’s largest health imaging study, the authors note. The data resource includes information from six different kinds of brain imaging, which were all done in the 30 minutes that each volunteer was in the brain scanner. The study scanned 10,000 participants, including images of the heart, body, bone and blood vessels in addition to brain scans.