Researchers are taking a closer look at mild cognitive impairment – the state between normal forgetfulness associated with getting older and full-blown dementia.
A study outlined in the Harvard Mental Health Letter suggests that new technology is being developed to help assess which individuals with mild cognitive impairment are most likely to develop Alzheimer's disease.
One of these technologies, fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography, works by measuring the blood glucose metabolism in the cerebral cortex – with diminished glucose levels suggesting that neurons are not as active as they should be.
A second test involves measuring brain volume changes with volumetric MRI to detect shrinkage, which is typical in Alzheimer's.
According to the study's authors, if one or more of these technologies can reliably predict which individuals are more likely to develop Alzheimer's then scientist may be able to decide who should receive the disease modifying medications, which are currently in development.
The Alzheimer's Society states that some ten to 15 per cent of people with mild cognitive impairment develop dementia each year.