Test may help detect dementia
Researchers from York University in the U.K. say they’ve developed a test based on thinking and movement that can detect Alzheimer’s disease even before symptoms of dementia appear. The findings were published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.
Study participants were split into three groups: people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or with a family history of Alzheimer’s, and two control groups of both young and older adults without any family history of Alzheimer’s.
Individuals took four increasingly difficult visual-spatial and cognitive-motor tasks on dual laptop computers. Tasks included moving the computer mouse the opposite way of a certain target on the screen. These types of assignments showed a pronounced difference between the test and control groups.
Although researchers found many motor skills are well intact even in the later stages of Alzheimer’s, 81.8 percent of participants with MCI or a family history of Alzheimer’s struggled with the most cognitively demanding visual motor task. This may be because communication between the back of the brain and the front of the brain is essential for turning visual and sensory information into physical action. When this brain communication is disrupted due to neurological changes, it may be the first signs of Alzheimer’s, even without any clear outward symptoms. The researchers said it could be possible to determine if a person was at a high or low risk for Alzheimer’s based on the participant’s reaction and movement time.
One researcher noted this study does not determine who will or will not develop Alzheimer’s, but it may help in the advancements with early diagnosis and understanding how people with a family history of the illness may be affected.