Right now, a spinal fluid test can signal Alzheimer's up to twenty years before clinical onset of the disease. The proteins beta-amyloid and tau are established markers of Alzheimer's, and changes in their levels may signal disease.
Someday, a simple test at the computer and non-invasive EEG scan may do the same thing.
Anne Snyder, 89, knows Alzheimer's disease. It killed Frank, her husband of 61 years. It's why she joined an early Alzheimer's detection study at Huntington Medical Research Institutes.
"I think it's, you know, one little thing I can do that may help. And it's totally irrational, but I feel like I'm helping him," Snyder said.
Dr. Michael Harrington created a brain challenge to find biomarkers for Alzheimer's decades before symptoms start. Participants take tests while wearing a cap that tracks brain activity.
"You can pick up early heart disease by running on a treadmill. We'd like to do the same for the brain, except you don't run the brain on a treadmill, you ask it few questions, and that's how this developed," said Dr. Huntington.
EEGs of participants with bad chemistry show they work harder to answer the same questions as the others. That shows as bluer on a graph. Bad means their spinal fluid shows changes in beta amyloid and tau levels.
"If we can show that it's got the rigor to do an equivalent detection, you wouldn't need to have a spinal tap. You wouldn't need expensive PET imaging," said Dr. Harrington.
Anne sees even more potential.
"I think it's terribly important because then it might be easier to do something, to if not prevent it, then at least slow it down," said Snyder.
She said Frank would have approved.
This study is six months old and only has six participants so far. Doctor Harrington plans to add many more people and to follow them for many years. His only restraint is finding more funding.
If you would like more information, check out the medical breakthroughs on the web at www.ivanhoe.com.
Computer test, scan may be able to detect Alzheimer's years before onset
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