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Possible cause of common dementia found, opening avenues for treatment

Researchers at the Krembil Neuroscience Centre have potentially discovered a major cause of dementia. In this type of dementia, there is damage to the white matter (nerve fibres) of the brain apparent on computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of older individuals.

Approximately 50 per cent of older individuals have evident white matter damage on their medical imaging scans. For most patients, these changes are harmless but when this damage is severe, it can cause impairment.

Previous studies have already established that the more white matter disease there is in the brain, the more likely patients are to have symptoms of dementia such as cognitive impairment or changes in behaviour. What was not understood is why this white matter disease develops -- the traditional assumption was that it might be the result of the natural aging process.

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