Getting the Jump on Alzheimer’s II

June 16th, 2009 | Sources: BurrillReport, Neurology


Two months ago, scientists at the University of Pennsylvania announced they developed a remarkably accurate screening test for Alzheimer’s disease.

studyingalzheimersUnfortunately, the test necessitates a spinal tap which is only slightly less odious than say, colonoscopy.

That’s why many were elated to learn that scientists at UCSF just developed a noninvasive, 15-point assessment tool that does pretty much the same thing, albeit sacrificing some diagnostic accuracy in the process.

Sexagenarians that score eight or higher on the scale are at high risk of developing dementia within the next 6 years, according to lead author Deborah Barnes.

Many items on the test are known risk factors for the condition, including old age, low scores on thinking skill tests, and having a gene linked to the disease.
Others are less obvious, including being underweight, completely abstaining from alcohol, a history of coronary bypass surgery, and difficulty with simple physical tasks like buttoning a shirt.
“This new risk index could be very important both for research and for people at risk of developing dementia and their families,” Barnes told BurrillReport. “It could be used to identify people at high risk for dementia for studies on new drugs or prevention methods.”

To develop the index, the scientists followed 3,375 elderly people for 6 years. Subjects had no evidence of dementia at study onset, but 480 had developed the condition by the end of the observation period.

The scientists then determined using logistic regression which combination of factors best predicted dementia onset.
Nearly 56% of those with high scores on the test developed dementia, compared with 23% of subjects having moderate scores and 4% among subjects with low scores. Overall, 88% of subjects ended up being correctly classified by the test.
The study is in Neurology.


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