A brain at rest offers clues to Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s | Science News

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A brain at rest offers clues to Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s

PET scans pick up clear signs of breakdown in neurological networks

By
3:03pm, February 9, 2015
PET brain scans

NETWORKING  Brain scans reveal the part of the brain that’s active (red shows most activity; blue shows least) when people are not thinking about anything in particular. In healthy people (top row), these coordinated areas of the brain are called the default mode network. But in people with mild to moderate Parkinson’s disease (bottom row), a new, abnormal network takes over.

Networks of brain regions that are active when the brain is at rest — not thinking about anything in particular — differ between healthy people and those with Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s diseases, a new study finds.

Measurements of how much glucose brain cells consume reveal that one important resting network, called the default mode network, rapidly and continually loses activity in people with Alzheimer’s disease, researchers report February 9 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In contrast, the network remains largely intact during the early stages of Parkinson’s disease.

The default mode network is series of brain regions that are active when people are sitting quietly thinking of nothing in particular. Scientists debate the network’s role, but some evidence has indicated that it breaks down in a wide variety of brain disorders and

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