A new study implicates 160 genes in brain shrinkage seen on MRIs of 45,000 healthy adults. The shrinkage is in the cortex, the dimply outer layer of the brain that gives rise to thinking, awareness and action, and largely consists of gray matter.
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The study, published Sept. 22 in the journal Nature Communications, examined 34 regions of the cortex in a discovery group of 22,894 individuals, then confirmed the findings in a replication group of 22,635 individuals.
“It is important to understand the biology of multiple regions of the cortex because each is affected differently in the various types of neurodegeneration including Alzheimer’s disease,” said Sudha Seshadri, MD, senior study author from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio).
“We asked, ‘What are the genes that seem to determine the thickness, area and volume of gray matter in these regions?'” Dr. Seshadri,
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It is hard to see inside the human body, but because it is vital for diagnosing certain illnesses, several techniques have been developed and perfected over the last century.
One of these is magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI. The MRI scan uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to generate images of parts of the body that can’t be seen as well with X-rays, CT scans or ultrasound. It produces detailed cross-sectional images that can be turned into three-dimensional pictures.
It works by using a magnetic field to order the hydrogen atoms in the body’s water molecules and then sends them radio waves from an antenna.
After the interaction, the atoms send the waves back with an intensity that depends on the type of tissue reached. The process then builds up a map of the body tissue.
MRI is painless and