Memory test may show causes for Alzheimer’s early on
Alzheimer’s disease is hard to detect early. Changes in the brain may start long before symptoms become apparent. Results of a new study show that a memory test may tell doctors who is at risk of developing Alzheimer’s years in advance.
A recent study at the University of Arizona finds an autobiographical memory test may show who is at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
“It relies on a number of regions to be coordinated and to sort of work together,” Neurosychologist Matt Grilli said.
Grilli, the director of Human Memory Lab UA, and his team tested how vividly participants could describe past events. They tested two groups of cognitively normal people. Those in one group have a gene that increases risk for Alzheimer’s, and they had a harder time remembering detail.
“It does tell us that this story of type of memory testing has promise as a new way of trying to pick up on early signs of Alzheimer’s disease,” Grilli stated.
This new study gives hope to families who have loved ones affected by the disease.
Jean and Kathy Norris-Wilhelm have been together 22 years. Jean started forgetting things, but it took two years of neurological testing to get an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Jean was asked if she could recall her 18 years as a school teacher.
“I did, but now a lot of it has gone away from me,” Jean said.
Kathy is excited that this inexpensive non-invasive screening out of Arizona could get more people an early diagnosis.
“I think having something like this is critical because the sooner you can get a diagnosis, you can prepare for it.” Kathy said.
Not all the study participants with the genetic risk factor tested poorly, and not everyone with the gene will develop Alzheimer’s.
Grilli plans to follow participants in this study and has begun another study that includes measuring participants’ brain activity and structure.
Contributors to this news report include Field Producer Wendy Chioji, Videographer Bruce Maniscalco, Supervising Producer Cyndy McGrath, Assistant Producer Hayley Hudson and Editor Roque Correa.