Smartphone app can improve early detection of Alzheimer’s

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Researchers have made a groundbreaking stride in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease through the innovative use of smartphone technology.

A recent study, involving teams from DZNE, Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the company Neotiv, has demonstrated that memory tests conducted on smartphones can accurately detect mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition often seen as a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease.

This study, published in npj Digital Medicine, involved 199 older adults and marks a significant step forward in Alzheimer’s research, clinical trials, and routine healthcare.

Memory difficulties are one of the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s, making their detection a crucial part of diagnosing and understanding the disease.

Traditionally, memory tests require a visit to a healthcare professional and involve tasks like remembering words, naming objects, or drawing shapes under supervision. This method ensures accuracy but limits the frequency and convenience of testing.

The latest research advocates for a more flexible approach. Prof. Emrah Düzel, a senior neuroscientist and an entrepreneur in medical technology, supports the idea of unsupervised testing, akin to how some heart monitoring is done.

This method would allow for earlier detection of memory issues and a more detailed tracking of disease progression, especially critical now with emerging Alzheimer’s treatments.

Neotiv, a startup collaborating with DZNE, has developed an app that enables people to conduct memory tests on their smartphones or tablets without professional oversight.

This app, scientifically validated and already in use for Alzheimer’s research, offers a promising tool for doctors aiming to catch memory problems early.

This study compared the effectiveness of traditional in-clinic testing with Neotiv’s app-based testing.

Dr. David Berron, a research group leader at DZNE and Neotiv co-founder, highlighted the app’s capability to detect MCI with high accuracy, emphasizing its potential to supplement clinical visits with valuable information.

Participants in the study came from Germany and the U.S., representing a mix of cognitive conditions—some healthy, some with MCI, and others with subjective memory concerns.

These individuals engaged with the Neotiv app over at least six weeks, completing tasks at their convenience. The digital tests were designed to be interactive, focusing on different memory aspects affected by Alzheimer’s at various stages.

Lindsay Clark, Ph.D., from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, noted the participants’ ability to complete these digital tasks remotely and their satisfaction with the experience.

The app’s tasks, involving image memory and recognition, were compared against established clinical assessments, showing promising results.

Prof. Düzel sees this technology as a means to conduct meaningful memory assessments outside the clinical setting. This approach not only aids in early diagnosis but also offers a digital tool for Alzheimer’s research worldwide.

Looking ahead, further studies aim to validate this method on larger groups and explore its effectiveness in monitoring Alzheimer’s progression.

This progress indicates a significant shift towards integrating digital technology in healthcare, providing new insights into memory decline and offering hope for more personalized and proactive treatment approaches.

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.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about Vitamin B9 deficiency linked to higher dementia risk, and results showing flavonoid-rich foods could improve survival in Parkinson’s disease.

The research findings can be found in npj Digital Medicine.

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