Some people may have mild memory problems without an increased risk of Alzheimer‘s. However, it is one of the factors that may reveal that a possibility to develop this disease is high. A new study lead by the University of Birmingham has shown that delayed response to written word could be a better indicator to predict Alzheimer‘s.
In short, those people with mild memory problems who show signs of delayed neurological response to processing the written word are facing a larger risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists invited 25 elderly to participate in this study. Some of them had mild cognitive impairment, some were healthy and some had diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. They were asked to read some written words while electroencephalogram was performed, taking readings of their electrical brain activity. The focus of this research was to see how long do people with mild cognitive impairment take to comprehend written language, because a progressive decline in language is a prominent feature of Alzheimer's. This study confirmed that.
While impaired language processing is considered to be an early sign of Alzheimer’s, science did not consider the progression of this symptom. The very early symptoms of delayed reaction to a written word could be a good indication that the process has already started and the person is facing a high risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Especially having in mind that serious language impairment is only noticeable at later stages of the disease. Previous studies have shown that it takes 250 milliseconds for the brain to process a written word normally and slower reaction times can be detected.
Scientists found that response time remained sharp for those who were not developing Alzheimer’s, but got delayed in those who eventually were diagnosed with the disease. This can be an important biomarker, which should be included in general diagnostic procedures when an elderly comes to a general practitioner with impaired memory. Dr Katrien Segaert, one of the authors of the study, said: “The verification of this biomarker could lead the way to early pharmacological intervention and the development of a new low cost and non-invasive test using EEG as part of a routine medical evaluation when a patient first presents to their GP with concern over memory issues”.
But at first it does need to be verified. Scientists are hoping to achieve that in the next stage of the research, when they check this hypothesis on a larger population base.
Source: University of Birmingham