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In their JNNP publication, Laakso et al present a potential novel diagnostic tool for assessing dementia disorders. The technique they use, MR spectroscopy (MRS),1 is not new, but the application to detect compounds in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to aid the differential diagnosis of dementia, is. MRS exploits the fact that hydrogen nuclei in matter perceive different magnetic fields depending on their local chemical environment. This slight shift in the intramolecular magnetic field gives rise to differences in the resonance frequency of the protons. The result of an MRS examination is a frequency spectrum, allowing for metabolite quantification or selection of unique features/patterns. Although the hydrogen nucleus (1H) is mostly used in MRS, other nuclei (13C, 19F, etc) have also been studied using this technique.
MRS is a useful technique in the clinic, since it offers the possibility of non-invasive study of certain in vivo brain processes. Usually, MRS of the brain is performed on clinical scanners with fairly low magnetic field strengths, 1.5 and 3 T. Only a limited number of compounds can be detected with signals high enough to be measured or even mapped in the brain. Laakso et al conducted an in vitro study, analysing CSF samples at high field strength (11 T)—an analytical approach, allowing for detection of numerous metabolites at a much …