Groundbreaking new studies could pave the way to earlier detection of Alzheimer’s Disease – and catching it before it’s too late.
Predicting the risk of developing the condition could be as simple as going for an eye test.
It’s hoped the two studies will open the door for a simple screening process for the disease years before symptoms begin to appear, by which point much damage and cognitive impairment may have already occurred.
The first study, published in the journal Ageing, suggests the way the eyes move when attempting to ignore an on-screen distraction could provide an early detection system for Alzheimer’s.
The second study suggests the speed at which the pupils dilate when performing a cognitive task may also trigger alarm bells for the disease.
A focus issue
Researchers from the University of Loughborough in the UK found that the inability to maintain eye focus among subjects with Mild Cognitive Impairment could be a strong indicator of developing Alzheimer’s later in life.
The subjects in the study were instructed to avoid looking at distracting objects on a computer screen.
The number of times people failed to ignore the randomly appearing spots correlated strongly with the occurrence of Alzheimer’s.
The mind’s inability to ignore stimuli rather than react to it, or recall it, was seen as an equally strong predictor of the disease eventually occurring.
The second study, led by William Kremen from the University of California in San Diego and published in Neurobiology of Aging, points to pupil dilation as another possible diagnostic tool of Alzheimer’s.
A part of the brain known as the locus coeruleus (LC) is the primary driver of pupil dilation.
Before Alzheimer’s Disease hits, tau proteins build up in the LC, damaging that part of the brain and thus impairing the pupil’s ability to dilate.
The research measured the pupil dilation of over 1,100 men between the ages of 55 and 65 while performing cognitive tasks.
After comparing their results with family members who had Alzheimer’s, the study concluded that slower pupil dilation was an early indicator of Alzheimer’s.
“These results are proof-of-concept that measuring pupillary response during cognitive tasks could be another screening tool to detect Alzheimer’s before symptoms appear,” said Kremen.