MRI scans can predict dementia risk to improve treatment

mri dementiaPatients could potentially prolong effects of dementia and implement lifestyle changes due to recent MRI research.

Doctors can predict patients’ risk of developing dementia using a simple MRI scan, according to a study that was published in November 2018. By utilising a new technique of analysing MRI scans, researchers proved that they could determine a person’s likelihood to experience cognitive decline with 89 per cent accuracy. According to the authors, the new MRI test can predict dementia on average 2.6 years before memory loss is clinically detectable.

Cognitive decline is often one of the first signs of dementia, and this study means doctors can now tell sooner if this will occur in a patient by using data from MRI scans. Although there are not currently medications that are able to delay or prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, this study could help aid in treatment, planning and lifestyle changes to improve patients’ quality of life.

“Dementia is the end result of decades of damage, so by the time people get dementia it’s too late to do anything,” said Dr Scott Chiesa, from the University College London (UCL) who led the study alongside an international team of experts.

“What we’re trying to say is you need to get in as early as possible, identify a way to see who’s actually progressing towards possibly getting dementia and target them.”

Some evidence has suggested that regular exercise, a healthy diet, not smoking and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol can help to stave off dementia. Also, having the knowledge that cognitive decline is impending means that people can plan for it. People could have better opportunities to plan for lifestyle changes like financial arrangements, adjusting to a new living situation and making their wishes known while they are still in control of their faculties.

“Right now it’s hard to say whether an older person with normal cognition or mild cognitive impairment is likely to develop dementia,” said lead author Cyrus A. Raji, MD, PhD.”We showed that a single MRI scan can predict dementia on average 2.6 years before memory loss is clinically detectable, which could help doctors advise and care for their patients.”

More details about the research study and its implications can be found in Science Daily’s article, “MRI scans shows promise in predicting dementia.” 

Read the NHS guide on diagnosing dementia.



Newcastle Clinic is a private clinic offering open MRI scanning. Open MRI is less stressful, quieter and more appropriate for claustrophobic and obese patients.