HealthDay News — A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan that measures blood flow in the brain may help predict which older adult patients are at risk for future memory loss, according to a study published in Radiology.

To determine whether arterial spin labeling (ASL) imaging in cognitively-intact geriatric patients may be used to predict subsequent neuropsychological decline, Sven Haller, MD, of the University Hospitals of Geneva, and colleagues examined patients with stable cognitative function (n=75), deteriorated cognitative function (n=73) and mild cognitive impairment (n=65).

ASL, an MRI technique that gauges blood flow in brain tissue, uses no radiation and adds only a few minutes to a standard MRI.

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At the beginning of the study, the unimpaired group took standard tests to measure memory, planning, and other mental skills. The same patients took the tests again 18 months later. At that point almost half of the group was showing a subtle decline.

After looking back at MRI images, the investigators found a pattern: the scans tended to show lower blood flow to certain brain regions in geriatrics who would go on to have a decline in mental function. Scans from the unimpaired group looked similar to those from the group with mild impairment, added the authors.

“At a group level, ASL patterns in subjects with [deteriorated cognitive function] are similar to those in patients with [mild cognitive impairment] at baseline, indicating that these subjects may initially maintain their cognitive status via mobilization of their neurocognitive reserve at baseline; however, they are likely to develop subsequent subtle cognitive deficits,” concluded the researchers.


  1. Haller S et al. Radiology. 2014; doi: 10.1148/radiol.14140680