Are the eyes the key to a new test for Alzheimer's disease?

August 23, 2012, Lancaster University

(Medical Xpress)—​A simple eye tracking test could hold the key to earlier Alzheimer's diagnosis, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Aging Association.

Work, led by Lancaster University in partnership with Royal Preston Hospital, Lancashire NHS Foundation Trust, has shown that people with Alzheimer's disease have difficulty with one particular type of eye tracking test.

As part of the study, 18 patients with Alzheimer's disease, 25 patients with Parkinson's disease, 17 healthy young people and 18 healthy older people were asked to follow the movements of light on a , but in some instances they were asked to look the opposite way, away from the light.

Detailed eye-tracking , taken from the group showed stark contrasts in results.

Patients with Alzheimer's made errors on the task where they were asked to look away from the light and were unable correct those errors, despite the fact that they were able to respond perfectly normally when they were asked to look towards the light.

These uncorrected errors were 10 times more frequent in the Alzheimer's patients compared to the control groups.

Researchers also measured memory function among those Alzheimer's patients who found the test difficult and were able to show a clear correlation with lower .

Dr Trevor Crawford of the department of Psychology and the Centre for Aging Research, Lancaster University, said these new results were potentially very exciting as they demonstrated, for the first time, a connection with the that is so often the first noticeable symptom in Alzheimer's disease.

He said: "The diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease is currently heavily dependent on the results of a series of lengthy . However, patients with a often find that these tests are difficult to complete due to a lack of clear understanding and lapse in their attention or motivation.

"Over the last ten years researchers in laboratories around the world have been working on an alternative approach based on the brain's control of the movements of the eye as a tool for investigating cognitive abilities such as attention, cognitive inhibition and memory. 

"This study takes this work forward because we found strong evidence that the difficulty in noticing and correcting the errors was probably caused by a problem in the memory networks of the brain that allow us to store the spatial position of objects in the environment.

"The light tracking test could play a vital role in as it allows us to identify, and exclude number alternative explanations of the test results."

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

More information: The Role of Working Memory and Attentional Disengagement on Inhibitory control: Effects of Aging and Alzheimer's Disease, Journal of the American Aging Association Trevor J. Crawford et al. www.springerlink.com/content/au722u75w5525kv1/

Related Stories

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 ...

Test could detect Alzheimer's disease earlier than previously possible

May 16, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- A new study has revealed the possibility of using a simple test for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease, enabling the condition to be identified before significant and irreversible decline ...

Blood test for Alzheimer's: Study identifies procedure that detects early stages

May 4, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- A new blood test that will diagnose Alzheimer's disease may soon hit the market, thanks to an innovative study from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC). Their findings ...

Study: Alzheimer's disease symptoms more subtle in people over 80

August 10, 2011
A new study suggests that the relationship between brain shrinkage and memory loss in Alzheimer's disease changes across the age spectrum. The research is published in the August 10, 2011, online issue of Neurology, the medical ...

Recommended for you

Molecular tracer, seen with PET scan, shows concentrations of abnormal proteins

July 17, 2018
In a small study of military personnel who had suffered head trauma and had reported memory and mood problems, UCLA researchers found brain changes similar to those seen in retired football players with suspected chronic ...

New study highlights Alzheimer's herpes link, experts say

July 12, 2018
A new commentary by scientists at the Universities of Manchester and Edinburgh on a study by Taiwanese epidemiologists supports the viability of a potential way to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Practice imperfect—repeated cognitive testing can obscure early signs of dementia

July 12, 2018
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive, neurodegenerative condition that often begins with mild cognitive impairment or MCI, making early and repeated assessments of cognitive change crucial to diagnosis and treatment.

The 'Big Bang' of Alzheimer's: Scientists ID genesis of disease, focus efforts on shape-shifting tau

July 10, 2018
Scientists have discovered a "Big Bang" of Alzheimer's disease – the precise point at which a healthy protein becomes toxic but has not yet formed deadly tangles in the brain.

'Skinny fat' in older adults may predict dementia, Alzheimer's risk

July 5, 2018
A new study has found that "skinny fat—the combination of low muscle mass and strength in the context of high fat mass—may be an important predictor of cognitive performance in older adults. While sarcopenia, the loss ...

Pathway of Alzheimer's degeneration discovered

July 5, 2018
Scientists at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (The Neuro) of McGill University have used a unique approach to track brain degeneration in Alzheimer's disease, uncovering a pathway through which degeneration ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

gwrede
not rated yet Aug 23, 2012
Nice to hear medical news that doesn't turn into expensive gadgets.

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.