Genetic tests for Alzheimer's disease a comfort for the majority

July 17, 2012

Genetic testing for Alzheimer’s disease can reduce anxiety for people, regardless of whether the test confirms a risk of developing the disease.

Several genetic tests are available for Alzheimer’s disease, both for the general public and for those with a family history of the disease. As direct-to-consumer testing over the internet rises, so have concerns over how people will handle information related to their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

But a review of over 20 years of psychological research by a team of Australian researchers from Neuroscience Research Australia, UNSW Medicine, Prince of Wales Hospital, University of Sydney, NSW Health and University of Tasmania, shows that the majority of people do not develop adverse psychological effects following testing.

“As genetic testing for Alzheimer’s disease becomes increasingly accessible, a better understanding of the psychological and behavioral effects of those who have had testing can be used to inform and improve testing protocols and procedures,” says study author Prof Peter Schofield from Neuroscience Research Australia.

Genetic testing is especially important for early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, as this is most likely to be inherited from a parent. Alzheimer’s disease is classified as early-onset if symptoms develop around 60–65 years of age, and late-onset when symptoms develop after this age.

“Young adults may be aware that their parents have a mutation and early-onset Alzheimer’s disease but don't see any need for genetic testing until they are ready to have children. But some want to know sooner rather than later and if the test is negative they can move on; if positive, they’ll know what the future holds,” Prof Schofield says.

Late-onset Alzheimer’s disease can also be due to genes, although the risks associated with gene variants for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease are lower than for early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. A few genetic tests exist for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, however, they are not widely endorsed by the medical community.

“Although testing for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease is not currently recommended due to a lack of preventative strategies and treatments, knowing your genetic risk of Alzheimer’s disease may be of benefit when making health behaviour changes or long-term care insurance decisions. Our review shows that the majority of people experience decreased anxiety and derive other psychological benefits from having greater certainty after genetic testing” Prof Schofield says.

The paper is published (and freely available) in the journal Genetic Testing and Molecular Biomarkers.

Explore further: Study participants at risk for Alzheimer's talk about their genetic test results

Related Stories

Study participants at risk for Alzheimer's talk about their genetic test results

December 12, 2011
If you had a family history of developing Alzheimer's disease, would you take a genetic test that would give you more information about your chances?

Early-onset Alzheimer's not always associated with memory loss

May 19, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- In a recent study published in the journal Neurology, scientists say that individuals who develop early-onset Alzheimer's in middle age are at a high risk of being misdiagnosed because many of their initial ...

Tackling Alzheimer's

February 2, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Specific genes known to be one of the causes of a rare type of Alzheimer’s, which runs in families, are unlikely to contribute to the more common form of the disease, University scientists have uncovered.

Falls may be early sign of Alzheimer's

July 18, 2011
Falls and balance problems may be early indicators of Alzheimer’s disease, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis report July 17, 2011, at the Alzheimer’s Association International ...

Recommended for you

Artificial intelligence predicts dementia before onset of symptoms

August 22, 2017
Imagine if doctors could determine, many years in advance, who is likely to develop dementia. Such prognostic capabilities would give patients and their families time to plan and manage treatment and care. Thanks to artificial ...

Chronic stress induces fatal organ dysfunctions via a new neural circuit

August 22, 2017
Hokkaido University researchers revealed that fatal gut failure in a multiple sclerosis (MS) mouse model under chronic stress is caused by a newly discovered nerve pathway. The findings could provide a new therapeutic strategy ...

Noninvasive eye scan could detect key signs of Alzheimer's years before patients show symptoms

August 17, 2017
Cedars-Sinai neuroscience investigators have found that Alzheimer's disease affects the retina—the back of the eye—similarly to the way it affects the brain. The study also revealed that an investigational, noninvasive ...

Could olfactory loss point to Alzheimer's disease?

August 16, 2017
By the time you start losing your memory, it's almost too late. That's because the damage to your brain associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD) may already have been going on for as long as twenty years. Which is why there ...

New Machine Learning program shows promise for early Alzheimer's diagnosis

August 15, 2017
A new machine learning program developed by researchers at Case Western Reserve University appears to outperform other methods for diagnosing Alzheimer's disease before symptoms begin to interfere with every day living, initial ...

Brain scan study adds to evidence that lower brain serotonin levels are linked to dementia

August 14, 2017
In a study looking at brain scans of people with mild loss of thought and memory ability, Johns Hopkins researchers report evidence of lower levels of the serotonin transporter—a natural brain chemical that regulates mood, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.