Researchers at the University of New South Wales’ Sydney Center for Healthy Brain Aging have worked with colleagues at the University of Edinburgh and Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Medicine to develop a visual assessment of brain aging.

The authors of the new visualization method called it “Distribution Function Difference”. It is an improved modification of diffusion-weighted imaging technology, a widely used method for visually assessing the microstructure of white matter in the brain.

The authors based the new method on the work of white matter: it consists of bundles of axons – processes of nerve cells covered with an electrically insulating myelin sheath.

The integrity of the white matter is critical to the normal structure and function of the brain. Moreover, it is most vulnerable to processes leading to vascular disruption.

The aging brain undergoes significant microstructural changes due to vascular factors before functional changes such as cognitive decline and effects on memory become apparent. The improved measurement method we have created allows you to distinguish a diseased brain from a healthy one.

Jing Du, Research Fellow, University of New South Wales School of Psychiatry
The new method describes changes in white matter and monitors vascular changes in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and helps to better monitor the aging process of the brain in general.

The authors are confident that the method will be able to track structural and functional changes in both healthy and diseased brains.