For decades, dementia-causing conditions like Alzheimer’s were a mystery, illnesses that couldn’t be diagnosed for sure except at post-mortem. The development of advanced PET scans, combined with new tracer dyes means that doctors can now follow subtle biological routes in the brain and spinal fluid. That could explain how and why physical and psychological wartime traumas can double the risk of such conditions. “Vietnam Veterans are getting to an age now where we should be picking up changes in those people who are going to develop Alzheimer’s,” said Christopher Rowe, Director of Molecular Imaging Research at the Austin Hospital in Melbourne, who is leading the Australian arm of the research. The findings will offer insights into what causes dementia, cases of which are projected to almost double every 20 years. They could shed light on the long-term effects of assaults on the brain — whether sustained in battle, in a car wreck or on the football field, said Michael Weiner, professor of radiology at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, who’s leading the study.
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