There are several primary difficulties with diagnosing DLB. The illness is characterized by the buildup of Lewy bodies in the brain. Depending on where they cluster, the individual’s symptoms may vary. They typically arise at the base of the brain and create movement-based symptoms like with Parkinson’s. Before researchers discovered what role brain volume may play in the equation, diagnosing DLB involved simply watching for symptoms and gradually ruling other illnesses out.
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Research Center conducted a test on 160 participants, all of whom had mild cognitive issues. Those with mild cognitive impairments are typically at a much greater risk of developing some form of dementia. Researchers charted brain activity in these individuals and found that patients who demonstrated no measurable shrinkage in different parts of their brain were far more likely to develop DLB than those who displayed hippocampal shrinkage. Because DLB does not always affect memory, researchers looked at the physical data in order to determine what effect the patients’ sheer brain volume had on diagnoses.
Though the study did occur on a relatively small scale, the results were encouraging enough that many researchers will continue looking into future studies. The link between volume and DLB could be just what medical professionals need to begin new standardized detection systems for dementia patients.