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Memory tests may forecast Alzheimer's disease, brain atrophy

By Tauren Dyson
Memory tests may forecast Alzheimer's disease, brain atrophy
Memory tests could help predict Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study. Photo by guiltier boffi/Shutterstock

Dec. 10 (UPI) -- A couple of memory tests could more accurately detect Alzheimer's in people with memory impairment, a study says.

Researchers at the University of Helsinki and the University of California used two memory tests to pinpoint mild cognitive impairment, which impairs memory and cognitive functions.

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Mild cognitive impairment can still leave a person functional, but also increases the risk for developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

"The use of two memory tests markedly improved the accuracy of the prognosis for an Alzheimer's disease diagnosis and brain atrophy in the medial temporal lobes during a three-year follow-up period," said Eero Vuoksimaa, an Academy of Finland research fellow at the University of Helsinki and study co-author, in a news release.

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For the study, published this month in the journal Brain Imaging and Behavior, examined data the collected in the United States as part of the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative.

The ADNI used one episodic memory measure test on 394 people with mild cognitive impairment and 230 people without it to guage story recall. Then the participants who tested poorly in story recall took a word list recall test to further measure performance.

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During the three-year study, about half of the participants with memory problems on both tests were diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease -- against 16 percent of the people who did poorly only on the story recall test.

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About 14 million Americans are projected to have Alzheimer's disease by 2060, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the researchers, recall tests can forecast Alzheimer's risk in patients just as or more accurately than brain imaging or cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers.

"Indeed, more comprehensive neuropsychological assessment including at least two episodic memory tests could be introduced as part of the health evaluation of the aging population, particularly in cases where memory impairment is suspected," Vuoksimaa said.

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