A New Test Can Identify Dementia Up To Nine Years Before Official Diagnosis

(NationalUSNews.com) — Researchers from Queen Mary University of London have developed a new method of testing for dementia that may be more than 80% accurate.

With this method, medical professionals could have an almost nine-year head start on diagnosis. The test is based on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans. This non-invasive imaging technique is used to test the brain’s response to various stimuli, tasks, or cognitive processes. In this case, the fMRI tests focus on changes in the default mode network (DMN), which is an area within the brain that is more active during periods of quiet rest.

Currently, diagnosis for dementia depends largely on memory tests or measurements of brain shrinkage. Dementia is a broad term that encompasses a range of conditions, many of which may have overlapping symptoms. This makes precise diagnosis difficult. Early symptoms may be mild or mistaken for other issues so diagnosis may be significantly delayed. The new test has greater accuracy and early detection capabilities, as well as only taking six minutes to perform. The leader of the research team, Charles Marshall, is hopeful their new method will lead to earlier identification of patients who could benefit from future treatments.

The study’s researchers analyzed fMRI scans from 1,100 people using the UK Biobank, a database of genetic and health information. Utilizing the scans, they developed a model to predict the onset of dementia. The model could even predict, within a two-year margin of error, how long it would take for a diagnosis to be made for individual patients. Lead study author Samuel Ereira commented that the large data sets will help identify people with higher risks of developing dementia. He added that the data could also be used to study environmental causes that may lead to higher risk.

While the study was conducted with only data from 1,100 people in the UK, broad application of the new methods could help people worldwide. It is estimated that over 5 million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. The new testing method could create opportunities for better understanding of these conditions, leading to more effective treatments and perhaps a cure one day. While there is no cure on the horizon currently, with the right management, the progression of the disease can be significantly slowed. If earlier and more accurate testing is implemented, the quality of life for patients may be drastically improved.

Copyright 2024, NationalUSNews.com