Center on Aging

  • Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI)

    Background

    The Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), a landmark study that began in 2004, is a public-private research partnership tasked with identifying biomarkers to detect Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The study has gathered and analyzed thousands of brain scans, genetic profiles and biomarkers in blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The study was designed to enable researchers to follow AD as it progresses in an individual, from various points in the disease process.

     In 2009, ADNI made a significant step forward in providing validation for a test that helps diagnose the beginning stages of AD sooner and more accurately by measuring levels of two biomarkers—tau and beta-amyloid proteins—in cerebrospinal fluid. Biomarkers in cerebrospinal fluid are revealing other changes that could identify which patients with MCI may develop Alzheimer’s.

     The ADNI study includes scientists at 55 research centers in U.S. and Canada. Currently the study involves over 800 study participants from those without memory problems to mild cognitive impairment to AD. The study results are expected to provide researchers with a better understanding of AD progression in its earliest stages.

     In 2010, funded by the federal stimulus package, the ADNI study moved into the “ADNI GO” phase. The ADNI GO research effort is the first of its kind to focus on participants who exhibit the earliest signs of memory loss in mild cognitive impairment – both thought to be precursors to AD. While the ADNI GO project work continues, the overall ADNI effort is rapidly moving into a third phase – known as “ADNI 2”.

    ADNI 2

    ADNI 2 will build upon the successes of earlier ADNI phases to identify the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers are eager to determine when damage to the brain begins. Scientists suspect that identifiable changes to the brain take place well before AD symptoms appear. The ADNI2 phase of the study includes a large number of new volunteers in the earliest stages of cognitive impairment.

    Researchers are seeking new volunteers to join those already participating in the study as it enters the ADNI2 phase. The study participants will be followed to define any changes in brain structure and function as people transition from normal cognitive aging to mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to AD. Like the previous phases of the study researchers will use imaging techniques and biomarker measures in blood and CSF specially developed to track changes in the living brain.

    ADNI Technologies and Biomarkers

    Some of the leading-edge technologies used in the ADNI studies are brain-imaging techniques, such as positron emission tomography (PET), including FDG-PET (which measures glucose metabolism in the brain); PET using a radioactive compound (Florbetapir F 18) that measures brain amyloid accumulation; that measures brain beta-amyloid; and structural MRI. Brain scans are showing scientists how the brain’s structure and function change as AD starts and progresses. Moreover, biomarkers in CSF are revealing other changes that could identify which patients with MCI will develop Alzheimer’s. ADNI 2 researchers are committed to identifying who is at risk for Alzheimer’s and to developing measurements to accurately track the progression of the disease in an individual. Moreover, ADNI 2 researchers hope to develop tests to measure the effectiveness of potential AD treatment interventions.

    To learn more about the ADNI study and possible participation in memory research at Iowa, contact:

    Karen Ekstam-Smith
    (319) 353-5158
    karen-ekstam@uiowa.edu