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Could a simple test predict Alzheimer's?

Could a simple test predict Alzheimer's?
22nd September 2014

Scientists have devised a test that could identify individuals who are set to develop Alzheimer's disease at some point in the future.

Researchers from York University in the US have made the discovery and hope it could pave the way for earlier diagnosis for the neurodegenerative disorder.

Participants were asked to complete four tasks that tested their visual-spatial and cognitive-motor abilities on dual-screened laptops. There were three groups - those who had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment or had relatives with the disease, a control group of younger adults and one of older individuals - both of whom had no family history of the condition. 

These tests involved moving the mouse in the other direction to a visual target on the screen. This meant the individual's brain had to think before and throughout their actions - and this was where the biggest difference was noted between the first group and the other two. 

The research team - led by faculty of health Professor Lauren Sergio and PhD candidate Kara Hawkins - discovered how 81.8 per cent of individuals in the first group had difficulties on the visual motor task that was the most cognitively demanding. 

"In terms of being able to categorise the low Alzheimer's disease risk and the high Alzheimer's disease risk, we were able to do that quite well using these kinematic measures," Ms Hawkins said. 

"This group had slower reaction time and movement time, as well as less accuracy and precision in their movements." 

While the findings don't accurately predict who will develop the condition, they do indicate how there are changes in the brains of those who have mild cognitive impairment or relatives who had the disease. 

The full findings of this research can be viewed in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. 

This study is encouraging because the earlier an individual can be diagnosed with some form of cognitive decline, the more hope there is that treatments will be effective. 

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