Chilean neurologists have found a way to detect Alzheimer's disease earlier than previously possible. The detection can be made even before memory loss and other common symptoms begin to show.
Researchers at Chile's Biomedical Neuroscience Institute believe that can identify early stages of dementia and other psychiatric diseases in patients through observation of eye movement patterns and the brain's electrical activity. The neurologists studied patients as they navigated a virtual location, where they were challenged with finding keys in order to complete a task.
Lead neurologist Dr. Enzo Brunetti says tests were able to detect very early signs of cognitive impairment in patients who apparently presented no symptoms of Alzheimer's. “In This Study, we applied spatial navigation tasks using a computer, and with the help of software we examined in detail which were the early functions that became altered in Alzheimer's disease, and focused on a very specific function linked to codification and development of cognitive memory that helps people move through their physical environment,” said Dr. Brunetti.
He added, “This is one of the cognitive functions that was altered in patients of Alzheimer's and we observed that they were altered in very early stages. Therefore we believe this is a biomarker for the disease, which could give us an opportunity to shed light on an early diagnosis for this disease.
Brunetti believe that patients that are likely to develop some form of dementia make similar eye movements while navigating through a virtual room to those at a developed stage of the disease.
With the help of electrodes that measure the brain's electrical activity, the neurologists run non-invasive electroencephalogram tests on patients while they navigate through the computer made universe. More tests in a larger clinical trial are needed before the treatment can be made available.
An early Alzheimer's diagnosis may not only help patients plan better for the future, but also offer them a possibility of delaying the symptoms with drugs and other existing treatments.