New memory test can predict Alzheimer’s risk 18 years before diagnosis

Errors in simple memory and cognitive tests can predict a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease up to 18 years before it can be properly diagnosed, researchers in the US report.

In a study of over 2,000 participants, a team from Rush University Medical Centre in Chicago found that those who got the lowest scores in the tests over an 18-year period were almost 10 times more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease than people with higher scores. They say that by focussing on the very subtle changes in brain function that occur several decades before Alzheimer’s symptoms show up, we could figure out how to better treat, or even prevent, this devastating disease.

The team worked with 2,125 European-American and African-American volunteers living in Chicago with an average age of 73. None of them had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease when they were selected for the study. The participants were given exercises that tested both their memory and cognitive skills every three years over an 18-year period.

During the course of the study, 23 percent of the African-American participants and 17 percent of European-American participants – so 21 percent of the participants overall – ended up developing Alzheimer’s disease. When the researchers looked back at their test scores, they found that those on the high and low end of the spectrum could be used to predict a participant’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s in the future.  Source: New memory test can predict Alzheimer’s risk 18 years before diagnosis

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