Researchers at York University have found that a thinking and movement test could help diagnose Alzheimer’s before symptoms appear. Doctors typically diagnose Alzheimer’s based on a battery of neurological exams and a thorough evaluation of symptoms. This approach means that people frequently experience uncertainty about their diagnosis, and doctors don’t typically make an Alzheimer’s diagnosis until a person with the condition already has symptoms.
Earlier Detection of Alzheimer’s
Researchers divided participants into three groups based on their Alzheimer’s risk. One group had a family history of Alzheimer’s or a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Two other groups—one with younger people and one with older people—had no history of Alzheimer’s and no cognitive impairment.
Researchers then asked each group to complete a series of four increasingly challenging tasks involving spatial reasoning and cognitive-motor skills. In one test, for example, participants had to move a mouse in the opposite direction of an item on the screen. More than 80% of people with MCI or a family history of Alzheimer’s had difficulty completing the most challenging task, even when they didn’t have outward signs of Alzheimer’s. Researchers believe that such a test could help to detect subtle shifts in cognitive functioning before Alzheimer’s symptoms become visible.
Signs of Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s can be a frightening diagnosis, particularly since there’s not yet a cure. Some seniors may worry they have Alzheimer’s when they’re just experiencing normal symptoms of aging. Others may ignore telltale signs of the disease for months or years.
Knowing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s can help you get quality medical care as early as possible. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s include:
- Pervasive memory loss that interferes with your ability to function in daily life. Forgetting a word here or there or needing to pause to remember a name, on the other hand, can both be part of the normal aging process.
- Difficulty completing daily tasks, such as following a beloved recipe or driving somewhere familiar. The occasional need to pause and think before completing a familiar task, however, can be normal.
- Difficulty following a conversation, speaking, or writing. Simply experiencing occasional difficulties remembering or “finding” a word, though, is normal.
- Confusion regarding time and dates. It’s normal to occasionally forget what day it is or need to double-check a calendar. But being unaware of the passage of time is a warning sign.
- Losing things or getting lost. Everyone misplaces objects sometimes or needs assistance locating a car in a parking lot. But frequently getting lost, putting items in unusual locations, or losing things so frequently that it interferes with daily functioning are experiences that warrant medical attention.
- Know the 10 signs [PDF]. (2011). Chicago: Alzheimer’s Association.
- Simple test can help detect Alzheimer’s before dementia signs show, study shows. (2014, September 19). Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140919110645.htm
© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.