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deteriorating despite brain scans remaining the same?


Registered User
Nov 24, 2010
Just wondering if anyone is more in-the-know than me and could possibly explain why my mum is getting worse despite her brain scans not changing? She was diagnosed with post cortical atrophy in 2011 when she was 55, now 57, she has got drastically worse and is currently in hospital being assessed for a home - however her brain scans are exactly the same as they were two years ago? I'm only 21 so my knowledge of alzheimer's is somewhat limited but I'm confused as to why she's got so much worse when her brain has stayed the same? I thought deterioration of the brain was what caused memory/functions to be lost?
Any info much appreciated :)


Registered User
Feb 10, 2010
Ok I'll try to explain what might be happening. When you have a scan it shows the physical make-up of the brain. So you can tell for example if there are things like shrinkage and then make a diagnosis that this shrinkage is what is causing the symptoms you are having. The brain is however a very complex organ which connects to and controls all the functions of the body. All it needs is for the disease to spread a little and break the 'wiring' that, say controls speech, and you find that the person starts having problems with this. Then you can find that the 'wiring' in the part of the brain that covers comprehension and logic, has some breaks in it. Then you will see that the person has problems in understanding and rationalising things. Then, add that to the bad wiring in the speech area and you then see someone no longer being able to explain things and their ability to communicate becomes veer jumbled. Given that some of the wiring in the brain can be as fine as a few strands of hair, then you will understand why a scan doesn't pick these things on an individual basis. Over time, depending which part of the brain becomes affected, there can be more physical symptoms that start to develop. Did you know for example that the area of the brain that sends signals to the bladder when it becomes full and keeps you continent, is also the area of the brain that covers such things as swallowing and the vocal chords? One you develop symptoms like these, the doctors will then know what area of the brain that the disease has spread to.

I have heard what is happening likened to a computer. You are having problems with sending something to the printer. So you look around the computer (Scan) and everything looks fine. You sneak a look inside, all the wires are connected and it all looks like new, except it is a little dusty (you need an air duster!!!). You reboot the system and still no printer. Then, wow, the blue screen if death comes up. Never had that happen before. You switch off, let it rest for a while then try again. Oh great, must have been a glitch. Still no printer though and now I can't get my DVD player to work. You check again, everything looks fine. Nothing changed since last time you looked. However, something has changed. On the motherboard some of the tiny bits of solder have broken. No signal being sent to the printer! Then another bit pings on another part of the board. Then one major area partially breaks and this is why you got the blue screen of death. It is only temporary THIS TIME because you gave the outer a thump and the wires are connecting again for now! And so things go on. Pinging away here and there, some permanent, others temporary for now. Eventually the damage will be so bad that you will be able to see evidence of what is happening.

The sad thing is though, that you can heal your computer, but with different types of dementia we are not able to do that, so the deterioration continues. One day they will find a cure. One day we will be able to fix it, just as we do our computers.

Hope this helps,



Registered User
Jun 19, 2012
Ontario, Canada
Hi Hopefulasever,

I'm sorry your mum's condition is worsening so rapidly. Things do often stop working long before changes can be seen on a scan - Fiona's description is bang on.


Registered User
May 29, 2012
East Yorkshire
Another concideration as to look at what scans are being used. MRI and CT will show what structures are there and whether they seem normal in size and shape. These scans do not should how well these structures are working or whether they are working at all. There two scans which help with this question, one shows the blood flow in the brain and the other shows if marked glucose it being used by the brain cells. Living cells need a blood supply to enable them to receive glucose and oxygen, so obviously blood supply shows that, which are living, and how much glucose is taken up gives an idea of how hard they are working. These scans are very expensive and so are not the first choice tests to be done.


Registered User
Sep 15, 2012
Nuneaton, warwickshire
Hi there,

My mums AS is quite advanced. She had a CT scan last September which is when she went Into her NH but had spent time in a psych unit prior to this, she was moderate-severe when moved. Mums CT scan showed nothing, no small vessell damage, no abnoal brain shrinkage, stokes, blood clots nothing at all.

Mum was diagnosed in October 2011 aged 66, she was in a psych ward by July 2012. Her deterioration was also exceptionally rapid, her CPN and community psychiatrist both told me that with some people the earlier the onset the more rapid the deterioration, this is certainly true for mum, 9 months after diagnosis she was being assessed and dad was being told that there was no ways he would be discharged home, it would have to be into a care home.

It's a damned horrible disease and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. I'm so sorry mums deterioration is happening so quickly.

Take care