Unlocking Mysteries of the Brain with PET

Reston, Va.—Inflammatory response of brain cells—as indicated by a molecular imaging technique—could tell researchers more about why certain neurologic disorders, such as migraine headaches and psychosis in schizophrenic patients, occur and provide insight into how to best treat them, according to two studies published in the November issue of The Journal of Nuclear Medicine.

By using positron emission tomography (PET)—a noninvasive molecular imaging technique—researchers were to able to identify neuroinflammation, which is marked by activated microglia cells (brain cells that are responsive to injury or infection of brain tissue) in patients with schizophrenia and in animal models with migraines. Although neuroinflammation has been shown to play a major role in many neurodegenerative disorders––such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease––only limited data exists about the role of neuroinflammation in schizophrenia and migraines. The two studies in The Journal of Nuclear Medicine are the first to identify neuroinflammation in specific regions of the brain—a development which could be used to effectively evaluate the treatment response to anti-inflammatory drugs and become transformative for diagnosis and care.

“This study shows that molecular imaging can play an important role in better understanding the processes involving psychiatric and other neurological disorders,” said Janine Doorduin, M.Sc., a researcher at the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands and lead author of “Neuroinflammation in Schizophrenia-Related Psychosis: A PET Study.” Doorduin added: “Without molecular imaging, the only way to look at inflammation in the brain, as well as other molecular processes, would be to use post-mortem brains.”

source: Society of Nuclear Medicine

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