Researchers from the University of California Irvine claim to have found a passage of the brain that could aid early diagnosis of dementia.
The perforant path is a tiny passage that has eluded scientists for decades, and is believed to deteriorate gradually during aging and more quickly when dementia is present.
Lead author of the study Dr Mike Yassa said that finding the passage allows doctors to determine whether a person is experiencing the normal aging process and struggling to quickly recall certain facts, or whether the early stages of dementia are beginning to appear.
In addition, the discovery will have major benefits for drug companies looking to develop treatments for dementia.
Craig Stark, UCI associate professor of neurobiology and behaviour, said: "Let's say you're a drug company, and you think you've got a potentially effective treatment for slowing Alzheimer's.
"You want to try it on people in the most preliminary stages of that disease, not those just experiencing normal aging."
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