The likelihood of developing dementia may be determined before a person is even born, according to latest research.
Scientists from the University of North Carolina conducted MRI scans on 272 newborn babies, then tested their DNA for variations to the genes that are associated with diseases in later life.
The researchers found that those with a variation to the gene associated with Alzheimer's disease also displayed brain changes similar to those that can be found in patients with fully-developed Alzheimer's.
Dr Rebecca Knickmeyer, who led the study, said: "These results suggest that prenatal brain development may be a very important influence on psychiatric risk later in life."
Although the team admit the results do not always show the brain changes expected of certain gene mutations, they speculate this means that the changes could occur during puberty or later in life.
The effects of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia cannot be reversed, but can often be slowed through treatment. As such, it is important to diagnose the condition as early as possible and it is hoped this research could begin to form new techniques to do so.
Find out about dementia care and support services at Barchester care homes.