ABOUT DEMENTIA: Dementia is defined as a significant loss of memory and mental function. It is often confused with a temporary forgetfulness resulting from, stress, depression, an infection underlying illness, or side effects of medication. This makes it difficult to diagnose. Unlike temporary forgetfulness, dementia becomes worse over time. Common symptoms of dementia include being less able to grasp new ideas and adapt to change, and less concerned with activities or other people. People suffering from dementia may lose their sense of time, forget the day, forget where they are, or even get lost in a familiar place. As the dementia progresses, they will fail to recognize people they know well. They may repeat the same question over and over without realizing it. Their ability to reason and to calculate will be damaged, causing difficulty in making decisions, solving problems, even handling money. Dementia can also cause abrupt changes in personality. There are many different causes of dementia, but it becomes more frequent with age, and is most often associated with the onset of Alzheimer's disease, which attacks the brain. The disease is caused by the build-up of protein deposits, called plaques, which form tangles in the brain cells, disrupting normal function. Alzheimer's accounts for between 50 percent and 70 percent of all cases of dementia.
HOW MRI WORKS: Magnetic resonance imaging uses radio frequency waves and a strong magnetic field instead of X-rays to provide clear and detailed pictures of internal organs and tissues. These radio waves are directed at protons in hydrogen atoms -- one of the most abundant atoms in the human body, because of the body's high water content. The waves "excite" the protons, and when they "relax," they emit strong radio signals. A computer can turn those signals into a high-contrast image showing differences in the water content and distribution in various bodily tissues.