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D. The Predictive Value of the PET Scan in Alzheimer's Disease

Narrator: This is Science Today. A PET scan is a functional imaging measure in which the brain and its metabolic pattern may be viewed in three dimensions. UCLA researchers have found that the use of PET scans improves doctors' ability to predict Alzheimer's disease accurately. Dr. Dan Silverman, associate director of imaging at the UCLA Alzheimer's Disease Center, studied the results of PET scans taken between 1991 and 1999 of patients with mild cognitive complaints.

Silverman: What we found is that this prediction of the physicians went from 66 percent of the time being correct in patients whom they thought had a stable condition, to 96 percent of the time being correct, that the PET scan also were negative for having any one of those kind of conditions. On the other hand, if the PET scan were positive, it was 18 times more likely that they would actually have a progressive condition than if the PET scan was negative, just among these patients who the doctors referring them thought had no progressive dementia present in their brains.

Narrator: Spotting Alzheimer's through metabolism patterns on PET scans has been inferred in previous research, but this is the first study to show it works in practice. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.