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What is Cerebral Atrophy?
02-21-2011, 11:22 PM (This post was last modified: 02-22-2011 12:51 PM by chris.)
Post: #1
What is Cerebral Atrophy?
Cerebral atrophy is a common feature of many of the diseases that affect the brain. Atrophy of any tissue means loss of cells. In brain tissue, atrophy describes a loss of neurons and the connections between them. Atrophy can be generalized, which means that all of the brain has shrunk; or it can be focal, affecting only a limited area of the brain and resulting in a decrease of the functions that area of the brain controls. If the cerebral hemispheres (the two lobes of the brain that form the cerebrum) are affected, conscious thought and voluntary processes may be impaired.

[Image: atrophy_tu_003.jpg]

Neuroimaging techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computer tomography (CT), positron emission tomography (PET), and single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), are used to diagnose the disorder. Cerebral atrophy is a feature of numerous disorders, and may affect only part of the brain.

A number of conditions involving the brain can lead to brain atrophy, including epilepsy, traumatic brain injuries, strokes, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and Huntington's disease. Brain atrophy has also been observed in patients with chronic wasting, also known as cachexia, with brain atrophy being particularly common in AIDS patients who develop cachexia.

Like other atrophies, brain atrophy involves loss of tissue. In the brain, losing neurons is highly undesirable, as loss of brain tissue can cause a variety of neurological and cognitive problems. Patients with brain atrophy may develop seizures, dementia, and aphasias. In focal cerebral atrophy, the damage is concentrated on a particular area of the brain, which means that the functions of that area of the brain can become impaired. Generalized brain atrophy involves the whole brain, and may be associated with a range of problems.

This condition can usually be identified in a medical imaging study of the brain such as an MRI, which can reveal structural changes in the brain. Functional scans of the brain may reveal decreased brain activity caused by brain atrophy. Patients at risk for this condition may have such scans recommended on a periodic basis for their physicians to monitor for changes in brain structure or function. People who experience symptoms associated with cerebral atrophy may also undergo such scans to assist with diagnosis.

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