Researchers from Caltech and the Huntington Medical Research Institutes have developed a promising noninvasive test to detect early Alzheimer’s risk, offering new hope in the fight against this neurodegenerative condition.
Currently, the most common method to assess Alzheimer’s risk involves measuring specific proteins in spinal fluid, a procedure that is invasive, painful, and costly.
With over 6 million Americans affected, mostly those 65 and older, there’s an urgent need for easier, less invasive early detection methods to slow the disease’s progression through early interventions.
Innovative Behavioral Test for Alzheimer’s Risk
The team’s research, described in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring, aimed to develop a simple behavioral test that correlates with the biological measurements of Alzheimer’s risk.
The test utilizes the Stroop Paradigm, a well-known cognitive task where participants name the color of a word that differs from the word’s meaning.
For example, the word “RED” might be printed in green, and participants are asked to identify either the word or its color.
To add complexity, the researchers introduced an “implicit distractor” – a colorless word flashed rapidly before the target word, designed to unconsciously distract the participant.
This method assesses implicit cognition, the brain’s ability to process sensory information without conscious awareness, as opposed to explicit cognition, which involves conscious and intentional information gathering.
Study Findings and Future Directions
The study involved 40 cognitively healthy individuals with an average age of 75, who underwent comprehensive Alzheimer’s risk assessments, including MRI and spinal fluid tests.
The participants were categorized as high or low risk based on these biological markers.
Results showed that high-risk individuals experienced a roughly 4% slowdown in the Stroop test when the unconscious word was flashed, suggesting that Alzheimer’s-related cognitive decline may affect implicit cognition before it impacts conscious cognition.
While the test is not yet diagnostic, it shows a correlation between high-risk individuals and worse performance when an unconscious distracting word is present.
The researchers plan to enhance the test’s predictive power by combining it with other noninvasive physical measurements, like heart rate and neurophysiological markers.
This groundbreaking study opens a new pathway for early Alzheimer’s detection through a behavioral test that is less invasive than current methods.
It marks a significant step forward in understanding and potentially diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease at an early stage, offering a vital tool for timely interventions.
If you care about Alzheimer’s, please read studies about Vitamin D deficiency linked to Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, and Oral cannabis extract may help reduce Alzheimer’s symptoms.
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The research findings can be found in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring.
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