6 Biomarkers Shown to Predict Development of Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's Brain. Science Photo Library - ZEPHYR. Brand X Pictures/ Getty Images

Recent research presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference 2015 identified a combination of six factors that have been correlated with the ability to predict the development of Alzheimer's disease at least five years before the symptoms develop. These include the following:

1) Digit Symbol Test - The digit symbol test contains a key at the top of the page where the numbers 1-9 are assigned a simple geometric symbol.

The test-taker's job is to copy the appropriate symbol from the key in response to a randomly-repeated series of the numbers 1-9.

2) Paired Associates Immediate Recall Test - This test provides paired words and then evaluates the ability to recall the second word when the first word is provided as a prompt.

3) Beta-Amyloid Levels in Cerebrospinal Fluid - The accumulation of beta-amyloid protein in the brain is considered to be one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease. 

4) Tau Levels in Cerebrospinal Fluid - Another hallmark of Alzheimer's is the twisting of tau proteins into neurofibrillary tangles.

5) Right Entorhinal Cortex Thickness as Measured by an MRI - The entorhinal cortex is an area of the brain near the hippocampus that has been tied to the ability to form memories. Interestingly, some research has shown that deep brain stimulation of the entorhinal cortex improves visuospatial memory.

6) Hippocampus Volume as Measured by an MRI - The size of the hippocampus has been correlated with the presence of Alzheimer's disease. It's thought to be one of the earlier areas in the brain affected by Alzheimer's.

Why Is This Important Research?

Research has shown that changes in the brain begin years, perhaps even decades, before the symptoms of dementia develop.

The hope is to be able to identify those changes earlier so that treatments can be developed to halt the damage before cognition is impaired.

Sources:

Alzheimer's Association International Conference. Researchers report new ways to predict the development of Alzheimer's disease. July 19, 2015. http://www.alz.org/aaic/releases_2015/Sun-8amET.asp
Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, vol. 33, no. 3, 2013, pp. 755-766. Entorhinal Cortex Thickness Predicts Cognitive Decline in Alzheimer's Disease. http://content.iospress.com/articles/journal-of-alzheimers-disease/jad121408

National Institutes of Health. Cognitive and Emotional Health Project: The Healthy Brain. Accessed July 19, 2015. http://trans.nih.gov/cehp/hbpcog-learn.htm

The New England Journal of Medicine. Memory Enhancement and Deep-Brain Stimulation of the Entorhinal Area. 2012; 366:502-510. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1107212?query=featured_home&

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