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Hélène Robak - 27/01/2015

When image processing is used to measure the effects of a drug on the brain

A crucial issue in the search for new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases is to develop biomarkers that can measure their effects on the brain. In clinical tests, image processing software developed by the ARAMIS project team measured the effect of a drug on the volume of the hippocampus from MRI images.

Automatic measurement of hippocampus volume from magnetic resonance images (MRI) - © Inria/Aramis

This study is a clinical test on the molecule donepezil, a drug used to treat the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. This is a nationwide joint project whose notable partners included the ARAMIS project team (Marie Chupin, Olivier Colliot, and Didier Dormont), theInstitut de la Mémoire et de la Maladie d’Alzheimer -nstitute for Memory and Alzheimer's Disease- (Bruno Dubois), and pharmaceutical companies EISAI and Pfizer.

The aim of the study was to find out if this treatment would reduce atrophy of the hippocampus in patients in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. The hippocampus is a structure of the temporal lobe of the brain, which plays an important role in memory. It is one of the first regions of the brain to be affected by Alzheimer's disease. Within the ARAMIS project team, Marie Chupin developed image processing software to measure the volume of the hippocampus automatically from magnetic resonance images (MRI).

For this study, 216 Alzheimer's patients in the early stages of the disease were recruited. Half of them received donepezil, and the other half received a placebo. Thanks to the automatic volume measurement software, the scientists were able to show that the loss of hippocampus volume was 45% less in patients treated with donepezil compared to the control (placebo) group.

This innovative technique offers promising prospects for the evaluation of new therapeutic approaches to neurodegenerative diseases.
Dubois B, Chupin M, Hampel H, Lista S, Cavedo E, Croisile B, Tisserand GL, Touchon J, Bonafe A, Ousset PJ, Ait Ameur A, Rouaud O, Ricolfi F, Vighetto A, Pasquier F, Delmaire C, Ceccaldi M, Girard N, Dufouil C, Lehericy S, Tonelli I, Duveau F, Colliot O, Garnero L, Sarazin M, Dormont D; “Hippocampus Study Group”. Donepezil decreases annual rate of hippocampal atrophy in suspected prodromal Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimers Dement. 2015 Jan 14. pii: S1552-5260(14)02856-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jalz.2014.10.003.

Keywords: Alzheimer's Brain image analysis MRI Paris Rocquencourt Aramis Hippocampe