People with two parents suffering from Alzheimer’s disease may show signs of the disease in brain scans years before developing symptoms, Medical News Today reported.

In a new study published in the journal Neurology, researchers analyzed 52 people between ages 32 and 72 who displayed no signs of dementia. The participants were divided into four groups: those who had no family history of Alzheimer’s, those who had a mother with the disease, those who had a father with the disease and those who had two parents with the disease.

Each group underwent both magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, which map brain structure and brain volume, and positron emission tomography (PET) scans, which measure brain activity and any plaques in the brain.

Participants who had both a mother and father with Alzheimer’s disease showed 5 to 10 percent more brain plaques and greater abnormalities in brain volume and metabolism compared to those who had only one parent or no parents with Alzheimer’s.

Additionally, people who had a mother with Alzheimer’s showed higher levels of markers for the disease in their scans, compared to people who had a father with the disease.

The study authors said they hope their research will help identify genes responsible for Alzheimer’s disease – and also help emphasize the importance of early detection in people predisposed to developing the disease.

"Studies show that by the time people come in for a diagnosis, there may be a large amount of irreversible brain damage already present,” study author Lisa Mosconi of the New York University School of Medicine said. “This is why it is ideal that we find signs of the disease in high-risk people before symptoms occur."

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