Using ultra-high resolutions MRI scans to understand more about Dementia with Lewy bodies

Research project: Using ultra-high resolution magnetic resonance imaging to examine structure, iron deposition and neurochemistry in Dementia with Lewy bodies.

  • Lead Investigator: Dr Elizabeth McKiernan
  • Institution: University of Cambridge 
  • Grant type: Clinical Training Fellowship
  • Duration: 36 months
  • Amount: £224,980.00

Why did we fund this research?

Comment from a member of our Research Network

‘Certainly making good use of the latest high resolution MRI technology to improve our fundamental understanding of Dementia with Lewy bodies is well worth doing.'

What do we know already?

Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), a type of dementia, may account for 10 to 15 percent of all cases of dementia. People with DLB can experience changes to their alertness, visual hallucinations and movement problems. 

The size and shape of some regions of the brain are different in people with DLB compared to healthy older adults. For example, differences can be seen in small areas of the hippocampus (an area of the brain involved in memory and one of the first areas affected in dementia). However, it is difficult to reliably measure such small structures using most MRI scanners.
A recent review showed that there is a lack of research using ultra-high resolution MRI scans to study people affected by DLB.

What does this project involve? 

Currently DLB is not always easily recognised by doctors or patients and their families. This study aims to understand more about DLB and why it develops.

Dr McKiernan will scan the brains of 25 people with DLB and 25 healthy older people using new technology called 7T MRI which is more than twice as powerful as the usual 3T. This cutting edge technology allows the team to see minute areas of the brain. The groups will also have their cognition tested with a short cognitive test and interviews. 

How will this benefit people living with dementia?

The use of newly available technology will allow the researchers to investigate the living brain in more detail than ever before.
Data from the scans in this study will increase our understanding of DLB. This in turn could lead to: 

  • improvements in diagnosis
  • identification of ‘at risk’ individuals
  • further the development of tools researchers and doctors could use to monitor the progression of DLB and how people respond to future treatments.