Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York have identified that people who performed poorly on a simple memory test were likely to show early signs of Alzheimer’s.
Over 4000 people aged 70 and over with no cognitive issues underwent a test in which they were presented with pictures of objects and asked to categorise them based on the hint they were given. For example, a picture of an apple would be presented with the clue of fruits as the category with participants asked to remember the item for a later time.
Researchers then created five groups of 0-4 as a means to score how the participants performed. People placed in groups 0-2 had trouble remembering the item but when given the clue were able to recall the picture whereas people in the remaining groups had difficulty being able to recall the picture even if prompted with a clue.
The study found that 30 per cent of people categorised in group zero had evidence of beta-amyloid plaque on their brain scan which is an indicator of Alzheimer’s. In group one 31 per cent had the Alzheimer’s marker while group two had 35 per cent, group three had 40 per cent and group four with 44 per cent.
First Author of the study Ellen Grober said that the discovery will go a long way when it comes to early the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.
“These findings suggest that this test can be used to improve our ability to detect cognitive decline in the stage before people are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease,” she said in a press release.
“This could be helpful in determining who to enrol in clinical trials for prevention of cognitive decline,”
“It could also help by narrowing down those who already have signs of Alzheimer’s in the brain with a simple test rather than expensive or invasive scans or lumbar punctures.”
According to Healthline the test score could help to predict on-set dementia by five to eight years.
One in 30 Australians aged 70 to 74 are estimated to have Alzheimer’s disease while one in eight aged 80 to 84 and one in three aged 90 to 94 are likely to have the disease according to the Australian government. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia affecting 70 per cent of people with Dementia states Dementia Australia.
Alzheimer’s is a disease that damages the brain and subsequently impairs memory, thinking and behavioural capabilities with the risk of having the disease increasing as people get older.