Brain scans could be used to predict the development of Alzheimer’s disease up to a decade before symptoms develop, according to a study published in Neurology.

Researchers at Rush University Medical Center and Massachusetts General Hospital in the US analysed MRI scans in people in their 70s with no signs of Alzheimer’s.

They found that the subjects with the thinnest areas of the cerebral cortex area, which plays a key role in memory, were three times more likely to develop the illness than those with above-average thickness.

In addition, those with most thinning brain also succumbed to the disease faster than people with average thickness.

Lead researcher Dr Brad Dickerson said that the study determined that those who ultimately developed dementia showed subtle shrinking long before they had any symptoms.

“This measure is potentially an important imaging marker of early changes in the brain that could help predict who might develop the disease and possibly even how long it might be before dementia develops,” Dickerson added.