NIH adds $47M to project using MRI, PET to assess brain health

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The National Institute on Aging is funding a project to capture brain images for research into ways to better protect cognitive functions in older persons at risk for cognitive decline.

The NIA, one of the members of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded the University of California at Berkeley $47 million over five years to capture PET and MRI images of participants in the U.S. Protect Brain Health program, which supports lifestyle interventions to reduce risk.

The grant is for the U.S. POINTER Neuroimaging Ancillary study, a multisite randomized clinical trial to evaluate the degree to which lifestyle interventions may protect cognitive functions in older persons.

U.S. POINTER originally was funded with $35 million from the Alzheimer’s Association, and now the government is contributing more funds via its U.S. POINTER Neuroimaging Ancillary Study, which will add more neuroimaging measurements.

The study will enable PET imaging of individuals to form a baseline and then two years later to measure amyloid and tau proteins. It also will take MRIs to form a baseline, then over two years will seek to use another image to measure details in the brain that include volume, white matter integrity and blood flow.

These measures will tell researchers how effective the interventions are and give information about the underlying biology of brain health.

U.S. researchers already have an idea of the effectiveness of intervention—the the U.S. POINTER program was modeled from a clinical trial in Finland that showed patients assigned to a multi-domain lifestyle intervention group had better cognitive benefit than patients who only received health education.

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