Tribune Print Share Text

A test for normal memory loss

Created date

July 14th, 2014
memory loss in senior
memory loss in senior

By 2050, about 16 million people in the U.S. will have Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. That’s a substantial increase from the estimated 5 million who have it today.

Today, doctors have a challenge figuring out who has the disease and who is merely showing signs of normal age-related memory loss. There is no definitive diagnostic test for Alzheimer’s disease while someone is alive. The brain needs to be examined after death to detect the characteristic abnormalities. 

Early diagnosis is crucial to allow for early interventions that can maintain the optimal quality of life for people with the disease and their caregivers. Now researchers have come up with a test that may help doctors detect early signs of Alzheimer’s.

Previous research has shown that people with Alzheimer’s have abnormalities in the hippocampus—an area of the brain largely responsible for relational memory. (An example of relational memory is the ability to connect a face with a name.) The research team developed a cognitive test that measures peoples’ relational memory ability. They found that people with mild Alzheimer’s performed worse on the test than the control group. They published their results in the journal Neuropsychologia.

The researchers say they need additional studies on more people in order to refine the test and to make it a consistent and valid tool for detecting the first signs of this devastating disease.