The Penn Frontotemporal Degeneration Center uses a variety of MRI measures to improve our understanding of neurodegenerative diseases. We use a specialized MRI scanner at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania because we have the ability to take very high resolution images of the brain and this allows us to make detailed measurements of brain structures. For example, investigators at the Penn Frontotemporal Degeneration Center look at specific regions of brain that support language, memory, behavior, and vision. These regions of the brain are all made of gray matter, the outer layer of the brain that is responsible for our thinking, and we evaluate gray matter thickness using our high-resolution MRI scans.
We also use specialized neuroimaging methods to evaluate the connections between gray matter regions of the brain, and these are called white matter connections. Another type of measurement, called functional MRI (fMRI) allows us to evaluate brain activity in individuals as they perform cognitive tasks, such as reading or viewing pictures.
Neuroimaging is an important research tool because it allows clinicians and investigators at the Penn FTD Center to measure structure and function of the healthy brain, and to assess changes in brain structure and function related to neurodegenerative disease. This approach helps us to improve diagnosis of Frontotemporal degeneration spectrum disorders, provide follow-up information about disease prognosis, identify patients eligible for clinical trials, and measure the efficacy of treatments during drug trials