How to Detect Alzheimer's Disease in 30 Seconds
Scientists believe they will soon have a screening test that can detect Alzheimer’s disease in 30 seconds. The simple test, which could be available as quickly as two years, could be done in a doctor’s office.
30-second Alzheimer’s test offers early detection
Researchers have been looking for ways to accurately screen and test for Alzheimer’s disease for many years. The US Department of Energy has developed an x-ray machine that may help detect Alzheimer’s early. Other scientists are exploring the use of a special ophthalmoscope to detect the disease.
Researchers at the University of California, Davis, have developed a method that involves abnormal brain images as a detection approach. The presence of plaque in the eyes is yet another detection technique under investigation.
The new 30-second screening test, which is designed for people in their 40s, reportedly can identify potential signs of Alzheimer’s using a computer procedure based on a person’s reaction times. Professor David Bunce, PhD, of the Centre for Mental Health Research at Australian National University and a visiting fellow at Brunel University, who led the research, told the Daily Mail that “The study lays open the possibilities for screening, early detection and intervention.”
To evaluate the screening test, Bunce analyzed the brain scans of 428 apparently healthy men and women ages 44 to 48 in search of lesions smaller than a grain of rice. About 15 percent of the participants had abnormalities in the memory portion of the brain. The lesions were similar to those found in autopsy examinations of Alzheimer’s patients.
When Bunce tested the subjects’ reactions times, he found that individuals who had the brain lesions demonstrated an erratic mixture of slow and fast reaction times, while individuals who did not have lesions consistently had either fast or slow responses.
Bunce suggests that his findings could allow physicians to identify Alzheimer’s disease early enough to allow individuals to take preventive measures, including diet, exercise, and other lifestyle changes. Early intervention, including the use of drugs, could prevent the disease from developing in some individuals. The 30-second test could be available within two to five years.
Brunel University news release, Nov. 10, 2010