The use of molecular imaging techniques in the central nervous system (CNS) has a rich history. Most of the important developments in imaging-such as computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, single photon emission computed tomography, and positron emission tomography-began with neuropsychiatric applications. These techniques and modalities were then found to be useful for imaging other organs involved with various disease processes. Molecular imaging of the CNS has enabled scientists and researchers to understand better the basic biology of brain function and the way in which various disease processes affect the brain. Unlike other organs, the brain is not easily accessible, and it has a highly selective barrier at the endothelial cell level known as the blood-brain barrier. Furthermore, the brain is the most complex cellular network known to exist. Various neurotransmitters act in either an excitatory or an inhibitory fashion on adjacent neurons through a multitude of mechanisms. The various neuronal systems and the myriad of neurotransmitter systems become altered in many diseases. Some of the most devastating diseases, including Alzheimer disease, Parkinson disease, brain tumors, psychiatric disease, and numerous degenerative neurologic diseases, affect only the brain. Molecular neuroimaging will be critical to the future understanding and treatment of these diseases. Molecular neuroimaging of the brain shows tremendous promise for clinical application. In this article, the current state and clinical applications of molecular neuroimaging will be reviewed.
Copyright (c) RSNA, 2007.