The dearth of effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is one of the largest public health issues worldwide, costing hundreds of billions of dollars per year. From a therapeutic standpoint, research efforts to date have met with strikingly little clinical success. One major issue is that trials begin after substantial pathological change has occurred, and it is increasingly clear that the most effective treatment regimens will need to be administered earlier in the disease process. In order to identify individuals within the long preclinical phase of AD who are likely to progress to dementia, improvements are required in biomarker development. One potential area of research that might prove fruitful in this regard is the in vivo detection of brainstem pathology. The brainstem is known to undergo pathological changes very early and progressively in AD. With an updated and harmonized AD research framework, and emerging advances in neuroimaging technology, the potential to leverage knowledge of brainstem pathology into biomarkers for AD will be discussed.

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Published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, v. 10, 266, p. 1-8.

© 2018 Braun and Van Eldik.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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This work was supported in part by the Weston Brain Institute and National Institutes of Health (F32-AG058456).