Alzheimer’s is one of the worst neurological diseases that over 100,000 Americans die from every year.
For those of us who don’t have relatives who suffer from the disease, it essentially eats away at your mind, your memory, your life, until you are unrecognizable to the people you love.
According to Dr. Sina Habibi, Ph.D., globally 50 million suffer from the disease, with 10 million new cases diagnosed every year. This translates to one new case every three seconds.
Often an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis can come much too late, and you simply don’t know if you or a loved one has it until the bigger symptoms start to present themselves.
A team of researchers working as Cognetivity Neuroscience based in the UK, have been developing an artificial intelligence (AI) based test that might now be able to give people up to 15 years warning of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
In the test they created, subjects are shown images of animals rapid fire and then asked yes or no questions about the animals you’ve just seen.
The theory behind this is that humans have a deeply ingrained fight or flight response to these images, because for thousands of years people have needed to be cautious and aware of these animals at all times.
For now, Cognetivity’s work has been approved by the FDA and the evaluation can be conducted at home and from a device such as an iPad. Cognetivity’s test product is not yet widely available for the masses, however, you can contact them on their website to request access to try it.
It’s just the first step to some form of possible early diagnosis. Some cognitive decline is normal when you age, but if after taking the test, the recognition is that you or a loved one appears to be showing signs of decline at an accelerated rate, this would be the time to seek out medical attention.
James Medcalf, commercial director of Cognetivity Neurosciences, says “In the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s, it is not memory that gets affected. Research shows instead that it is your brain’s processing speed that starts to slow, and this is what the new test shows.”
This 5-minute test relies solely on instinct, so it’s impossible to practice or prepare for. The clinicians say it will give an accurate idea of processing ability and if this has slowed. Subjects and medical teams can then track progress with it to see if a decline is being accelerated.
This test can potentially be life-changing if it can help to head off the disease and resulting cognitive decline.
It has the capacity to allow proactive medical and cognitive intervention before it is too late to turn back the ravages of Alzheimer’s.
In another study from the University of Cambridge in the UK apathy has been identified as another early symptom of dementia. Further evidence that dementia effects more than just memory.
According to Maura Malpetti, a cognitive scientist at the Department of Clinical Neurosciences, at England’s University of Cambridge and study author, “By studying people over time, rather than just taking a snapshot, we revealed how even subtle changes in apathy predicted a change in cognition, but not the other way around. We also saw local brain shrinkage in areas that support motivation and initiative, many years before the expected onset of symptoms.”
What’s clear is that the more we learn about the symptoms, the better the medical community can diagnose people early enough, to actually have an impact and delay or halt the worst of the disease.
Researchers learn more and more about dementia and Alzheimer’s every day, the progress is slow but, a test like Cognetivity could be transformative in this medical space.