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Simple Test for Alzheimer's Disease

Update Date: Sep 19, 2014 07:13 PM EDT

A simple assessment of thought-based movements can help identify Alzheimer's risk in people long before dementia symptoms set in, new research has found.

The findings were presented by researchers at York University in Toronto based on study of people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and those with a family history of Alzheimer's disease.

"We included a task which involved moving a computer mouse in the opposite direction of a visual target on the screen, requiring the person's brain to think before and during their hand movements. This is where we found the most pronounced difference between those with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and family history group and the two control groups," Professor Lauren Sergio  of the School of Kinesiology & Health Science, who lead the study, said.

The research team compared movements of the test group comprising people with MCI or those with a family history of the disease, to healthy adults to find that nearly 82 percent of those in the test group experienced difficulties in completing the task.

Researchers associate the findings with increased risk of Alzheimer's by explaining that delay or inaccuracy in performing the tasks show a disturbance in communication between frontal and parietal regions of the brain, indicating early stage neuropathology or unknown brain changes.

"In terms of being able to categorize the low Alzheimer's disease risk and the high Alzheimer's disease risk, we were able to do that quite well using these kinematic measures. This group had slower reaction time and movement time, as well as less accuracy and precision in their movements," researcher Kara Hawkins said.

Hawkins added that the study does not predict who would develop the disease but rather shows existence of brain changes in those with MCI or a family history of the disease which could be used for taking appropriate measures.

The findings have been published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

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