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Neurological Test Predicts Future Cognitive Decline

By Jane Kuszmaul

A huge challenge when it comes to diseases of the aging brain, like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's is that they develop slowly over decades, and are only diagnosed very late in the process, when the more serious symptoms start to appear. But what if we could get a window into our brains many years earlier, when lifestyle and other choices still have the potential to make a tremendous difference?

This is why a recent study at the University of Kentucky on predicting Alzheimer's is so valuable.

Researchers were able to find differences in the brain activity of participants who later developed Alzheimer's, and those who did not in the subsequent decade. Unlike other studies, which monitor the brain during times of sleep and rest, this study focused on what the brain was doing during activity.

Hillary Smith, a writer for the University of Kentucky News, wrote that, “They reported that a specific pattern of frontal brain waves during an everyday memory task predicts a person’s risk of cognitive impairment roughly five years before clinical diagnosis.” Meaning, that patients would not need to wait until symptoms began before they could address their risk.

This precious time allows for Alzheimer's prevention through lifestyle changes, which can make an enormous difference in maintaining brain health. And the test itself,

“Compared to current methods using neuroimaging as biomarkers, this method of measuring can be easily set up in clinics, is non-invasive, fast, and affordable,” Said Yang Jiang, the lead investigator of the study.

Meaning, that this discovery has the potential to be a tool accessible to large portions of the population, rather than relegated as an expensive and rare test. It is hard to know how quickly this will be available to the general population, but the discovery is one of many promising new biomarkers researchers are uncovering that will hopefully have real world impact in the year's ahead.


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