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

August 23, 2012

(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

New mechanism detected in Alzheimer's disease

October 13, 2017
McGill University researchers have discovered a cellular mechanism that may contribute to the breakdown of communication between neurons in Alzheimer's disease.

Neuroscientists identify genetic changes in microglia in a mouse model of neurodegeneration and Alzheimer's disease

October 13, 2017
Microglia, immune cells that act as the central nervous system's damage sensors, have recently been implicated in Alzheimer's disease.

Green tea extract delivers molecular punch to disrupt formation of neurotoxic species

October 11, 2017
Green tea is widely considered to be beneficial for the brain. The antioxidant and detoxifying properties of green tea extracts help fight catastrophic diseases such as Alzheimer's. However, scientists have never fully understood ...

Menopause triggers metabolic changes in brain that may promote Alzheimer's

October 10, 2017
Menopause causes metabolic changes in the brain that may increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease, a team from Weill Cornell Medicine and the University of Arizona Health Sciences has shown in new research.

Being unaware of memory loss predicts Alzheimer's disease, new study shows

October 10, 2017
While memory loss is an early symptom of Alzheimer's disease, its presence doesn't mean a person will develop dementia. A new study at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has found a clinically useful way to ...

Alzheimer's gene poses both risk and benefits

October 9, 2017
Scientists drilling down to the molecular roots of Alzheimer's disease have encountered a good news/bad news scenario. A major player is a gene called TREM2, mutations of which can substantially raise a person's risk of the ...

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.