Researchers have developed a new test that can help determine at-risk patients for Alzheimer’s disease. The findings are published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

A team from the Center for BrainHealth at UT Dallas created a test to assess the risk of progressing to Alzheimer’s disease in individuals with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI). aMCI is a specific type of cognitive impairment characterized by deficits in episodic memory, the ability to maintain new memories. The researchers used an electroencephalogram (EEG) to measure neural responses in the participants while they performed word tasks that exercised their semantic memory.

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The study included 16 people with aMCI and 17 age-matched healthy controls. The participants were asked to determine whether a pair of words either described features of an object and related to a particular object memory or were random. The results demonstrated that people with aMCI were less accurate and slower at the word task than their matched controls. Their EEG data also showed delayed brain activity showing a direct relationship between neural activity and the severity of cognitive impairment.

Study lead author Hsueh-Sheng Chiang, MD, PhD, noted, “the majority of EEG research in aMCI has focused on looking at the mind ‘at rest,’ but we are looking at the brain while it is engaged in the object memory retrieval process.” Study principal investigators John Hart Jr., MD, and Dr. Chiang agree that this is a promising start and they will continue to develop this diagnostic tool to extend its use to individual patients.

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