Neuroimaging in Alzheimer's disease: current role in clinical practice and potential future applications

Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2011;66 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):19-24. doi: 10.1590/s1807-59322011001300003.


'Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia and its prevalence is expected to increase in the coming years. Therefore, accurate diagnosis is crucial for patients, clinicians and researchers. Neuroimaging techniques have provided invaluable information about Alzheimer's disease and, owing to recent advances, these methods will have an increasingly important role in research and clinical practice. The purpose of this article is to review recent neuroimaging studies of Alzheimer's disease that provide relevant information to clinical practice, including a new modality: in vivo amyloid imaging. Magnetic resonance imaging, single photon emission computed tomography and 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose-positron emission tomography are currently available for clinical use. Patients with suspected Alzheimer's disease are commonly investigated with magnetic resonance imaging because it provides detailed images of brain structure and allows the identification of supportive features for the diagnosis. Neurofunctional techniques such as single photon emission computed tomography and 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose-positron emission tomography can also be used to complement the diagnostic investigation in cases of uncertainty. Amyloid imaging is a non-invasive technique that uses positron emission tomography technology to investigate the accumulation of the β-amyloid peptide in the brain, which is a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. This is a promising test but currently its use is restricted to very few specialized research centers in the world. Technological innovations will probably increase its availability and reliability, which are the necessary steps to achieve robust clinical applicability. Thus, in the future it is likely that amyloid imaging techniques will be used in the clinical evaluation of patients with Alzheimer's disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / analysis*
  • Biomarkers
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Positron-Emission Tomography*
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon*


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Biomarkers