Innovative Brain Scanning For Alzheimer's Unveiled
Researchers are launching an Alzheimer's screening clinical trial with Neuronetrix's innovative brain scanning system, called COGNISION. The study will involve brainwave assessments using a technology called event-related potentials (ERP's). The study is expected to validate the performance of the COGNISION system and to demonstrate the system's applicability in a primary care setting. Up to 100 Alzheimer sufferers and controls will participate over the next 6-12 months.
During the study patients will wear a sophisticated electronic headset which will record brain activity in response to an auditory stimulus. The process is similar to hearing screening tests performed on newborn infants throughout the country. The data is then uploaded to an online database where a powerful pattern recognition engine will correlate the ERP tests with known brainwave patterns.
The COGNISION test is expected to be the first approved Alzheimer's disease screening test which directly evaluates a patient's cognitive performance. "We are not looking at a surrogate biomarker which may or may not correlate with Alzheimer's. Instead, we are directly measuring the cognitive deficits caused by the disease," says K.C. Fadem, co-founder of Neuronetrix.
It is generally believed that the drugs used to treat Alzheimer's, such as market leader Aricept from Pfizer, are most effective early in the disease process. Because of this, a national focus has been placed on the importance of Alzheimer's screening to determine optimum treatment paths in the early stage of the disease. At least one organization of medical experts, the AD Screening Discussion Group, has advocated that Alzheimer's disease screenings become a routine part of the application for Medicare.
Alzheimer's disease affects about 5 million Americans with 500,000 new cases reported each year. This number is expected to grow to 16 million by 2050. The CDC recently reported that Alzheimer's disease moved up to 7th place from 8th place among the leading causes of death in 2004, passing influenza and pneumonia.