An Innovative Approach
Brain scans (PET, MRI and the like) at the Center for Neurosciences (CFN) enable accurate diagnoses of neurodegenerative diseases. Here, a PET scan of a healthy patient’s brain (left) is compared with a PET scan of a patient with Huntington’s disease (right). Note the shrinking of the red and yellow regions in the Huntington’s patient.
This PET scan shows regions of reduced glucose metabolism (blue) in the brain of a patient with multiple system atrophy (MSA), a disease with Parkinson’s-like symptoms. It is difficult but essential to distinguish MSA from Parkinson’s, because the two require very different treatments.
Multimodal Brain Imaging
The diagnostic specificity of PET imaging depends on a wide spectrum of radioactive tracers that can illuminate various biological regions or pathways. Those tracers, which decay rapidly after being created, are made on the premises by the cyclotron pictured here.
Powerful Research Tools
Scanners used by CFN investigators are located on site at The Feinstein Institute, on the same floor as the cyclotron. In the photograph, an image designed to test aspects of a patient’s cognitive functioning is displayed on an overhead monitor while a PET scanner records changes in the patient’s brain.
Biomarkers of Disease
A brain scan of a patient with Parkinson’s disease shows where cerebral glucose metabolism is significantly below (blue) or above (red) the corresponding levels measured in the same parts of the brains of people without disease. CFN investigators have shown that such changes are reliable biomarkers of the disease.
Improved Disease Tracking
CFN Administrative Director Christine Edwards examines a brain scan for the telltale pattern of Parkinson’s disease.
- The Center for Neurosciences (CFN) . . .
. . . at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research is pioneering in the use of brain imaging for making accurate and specific diagnoses of neurodegenerative diseases, charting their progress, and developing effective therapies to slow, halt, or reverse them. More precisely, the mission of the Center for Neurosciences is to elucidate neurobiological mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative disorders.
To study those underlying mechanisms, CFN investigators apply advanced multimodal brain-imaging technology to quantify progressive substrate abnormalities in a variety of populations. Those populations include patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD), Huntington’s disease (HD), and dystonia, as well as healthy volunteers. The availability of highly diverse cohort populations from throughout the New York metropolitan region,
through the North Shore-LIJ Hospital System, makes it possible for CFN investigators to characterize imaging biomarkers specific to the various phenotypes and genotypes among these disorders. Once an imaging biomarker can be reliably identified and validated, it becomes an important tool for improving early differential diagnosis, assessing the rates of disease progression, and evaluating the efficacy of novel experimental therapies.
Some of the biomarkers studied by CFN investigators have been shown to be more sensitive than the best currently accepted clinical methods for tracking the onset and development of diseases such as Parkinson’s—and the biomarkers are far less prone to error and subjective bias.