Virtual reality maze could predict likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease


Virtual reality maze could predict likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease
New study suggests that Alzheimer's disease could be detected decades before onset.

Findings published in the journal Science revealed new research into identifying symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the study, those who had a high genetic risk of Alzheimer’s could be identified with a simple problem-solving test.

Participants, aged 18 to 30, were asked to navigate their way through a virtual maze to test the function and ability of certain brain cells.

The team, led by Lukas Kunz of the German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Bonn, said the findings showed that those who were at high risk for Alzheimer’s navigated the maze differently to those who were deemed to be at low risk. Similarly, they reported reduced functioning within the brain cells responsible for spatial navigation.

Researchers say the findings could provide an insight into why people, who suffer from dementia or other neurodegenerative diseases, experience issues with navigating the world around them.

“Our results could provide a new basic framework for preclinical research on Alzheimer’s disease and may provide a neurocognitive explanation of spatial disorientation in Alzheimer’s disease,” according to the report.

This study focuses on healthy younger people, which allows researchers to see if symptoms of Alzheimer’s can be noticed decades before it begins to take hold, “suggesting they may already show alterations in spatial navigation,” according to Dr Laura Phipps of Alzheimer’s Research. 

She added: “Although we don’t know whether the young people in this study will go on to develop Alzheimer’s, characterising early brain changes associated with genetic risk factors is important to help researchers better understand why some people may be more susceptible to the disease later in life.

“The risk factors for Alzheimer’s are diverse, including age, genetics and lifestyle, and research is vital to allow us to unpick how each of these factors could contribute to a person’s risk of the disease.”



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