Areas of grey matter [nerve endings] in our brains start to shrink as we get older, affecting their connections to each other as well as our ability to form thoughts. On the left, a Bayesian network created from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of grey matter patterns in 101 ageing brains (together with some clever maths) shows the fragile connections between important brain areas (coloured dots). Each arrow represents a predicted interaction between two brain areas (thick arrows show strong connections). The Bayesian network on the right, built with MRI scans from 80 sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease, shows striking differences to the ‘healthy’ brain network. Its areas are differently connected – such as the lost connection between the medial prefrontal cortex (pink dot) and the right hippocampus (right-hand green dot). Such Bayesian approaches could be powerful tools to assist future analysis of MRI data, as early indicators for many brain conditions.
Written by John Ankers
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