Researchers detected signs of dementia up to nine years before diagnosis

Once a diagnosis of a neurodegenerative disease, such as Alzheimer’s disease, is made, it is often already too late to change its course. Identifying the early signs of this type of disease will especially prevent the risk of developing one.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia in the world, but it remains incurable. If the pathophysiological processes of neurodegenerative diseases begin years before the first symptoms appear, it is often far too late to change the course of the disease in question. Thus, disease-modifying therapies and prevention strategies are currently ineffective. One of the possible solutions would be to pay better attention to the pre-diagnostic phase as early as possible.

In addition to pathological biomarkers, it is likely that cognitive changes and changes in daily functions may occur upstream of a neurodegenerative disease. This is what researchers from the University of Cambridge sought to find out in a study published in Alzheimer’s and dementia.

A rich set of potential cognitive and functional data

The used UK Biobank, a biomedical database containing anonymous information on the genetics, lifestyle and health of half a million Britons aged 40-69. In addition to health information, several aspects of cognition and daily functioning were collected: problem solving, memory, reaction times, grip strength, weight change, number of falls, etc. ” This offers a rich set of potential cognitive and functional data from a large number of individuals, some of whom have developed neurodegenerative disease. write the authors of the study.

The English scientists have shown that it is possible to detect signs of brain impairment in patients between five and nine years before the diagnosis of one of the dementia-related diseases. For example, people who developed Alzheimer’s disease or frontotemporal dementia (a rare form of dementia) performed worse than healthy people on problem-solving tasks, reaction times, to-do lists of numbers, prospective memory (our ability to remember what to do later), and pair matching.

For all pathologies, the overall health status of patients at baseline was worse than that of healthy people. ” When we reviewed the patient histories, it became clear that they had cognitive impairment for several years before their symptoms became clear enough to make a diagnosis. “Summarizes in a statement from the university Dr. Nol Swaddiwudhipong, co-author of the study.

Identify people at risk and find effective treatments

It is a step forward in being able to identify those most at risk – for example people over 50 or people with high blood pressure or not exercising enough – and intervene at an earlier stage to help them reduce their risk “, he continues.

These results can also help identify suitable people to be recruited into clinical trials of new treatments. Identifying these people early enough would make it possible to see whether the tested drugs are effective or not.


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