Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a multi-factorial neurodegenerative disorder and the leading cause of dementia, wherein synapse loss is the strongest structural correlate with cognitive impairment. Basic research has shown that dietary supply of precursors and co-factors for synthesis of neuronal membranes enhances the formation of synapses. Daily intake of a medical food containing a mix of these nutrients for 12 weeks in humans improved memory, measured as immediate and delayed verbal recall by the Wechsler Memory Scale-revised, in patients with very mild AD (MMSE 24-26). An improvement of immediate verbal recall was noted following 24 weeks of intervention in an exploratory extension of the study. These data suggest that the intervention may improve synaptic formation and function in early AD. Here we review emerging technologies that help identify changes in pathological hallmarks in AD, including synaptic function and loss of connectivity in the early stages of AD, before cognitive and behavioural symptoms are observable. These techniques include the detection of specific biomarkers in the cerebrospinal fluid, as well as imaging procedures such as fluorine-18 fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET), amyloid PET, structural/functional magnetic resonance imaging, diffusion tensor imaging, magnetoencephalography (MEG) and electroencephalography (EEG). Such techniques can provide new insights into the functional and structural changes in the brain over time, and may therefore help to develop more effective AD therapies. In particular, nutritional intervention studies that target synapse formation and function may benefit from these techniques, especially FDG-PET and EEG/MEG employed in the preclinical or early stages of the disease.
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