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  C. Improving the Early Diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease

Narrator: This is Science Today. Researchers predict that the incidence of Alzheimer's disease will double in the next 20 years. And there is still no effective treatment for the disease. But studies by Dr. Michael Weiner of the University of California, San Francisco, are helping ensure that once a treatment is found, doctors can make an early diagnosis and begin care-even before a patient shows symptoms of the disease.

Weiner: We and others have found that changes in certain areas of the brain that are involved with memory function…it seems that these areas are damaged early and begin to shrink early. And we've found improved ways to make the diagnosis of Alzheimer's using MRI scan and especially 2 MRI scans separated by some period of time so that one can catch the change in these structures.

Narrator: These MRI scans are already widely used to diagnose Alzheimer's-a disease that was once identifiable only by autopsy.

Weiner: Usually with a good clinician and together with scanning the diagnosis of Alzheimer's is made with about 90 percent certainty.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.