Alzheimer's Disease and other Dementias
New Approaches for Early Diagnosis of Alzheimer's
Mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, may be one of Alzheimer’s earliest signs. The subtle changes of MCI include problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment and a subjective sense that mental function is getting worse. MCI is seldom severe enough to impair day-to-day activities and is sometimes ignored as “normal aging.” Though it doesn’t always progress to Alzheimer’s or another dementia, researchers at Wayne State University in Detroit say the condition should always be investigated further.
A release from the university notes that this may be especially important for older African Americans. They are twice as likely to develop MCI and Alzheimer’s as their Caucasian counterparts, but far less likely to be diagnosed or treated in the early stages. Voyko Kavcic, Ph.D., assistant professor – research in the Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State University, thinks access and convenience may be part of the reason.
The release quotes Kavcic as saying, “We want to develop affordable, comfortable ways to test for evidence of these disorders so it is easier for older African Americans. People with transportation or mobility problems shouldn’t have to navigate large, confusing medical centers to get answers. Why not take the test to them?”
Current testing usually requires a brain scan in an MRI machine the size of a school bus. Kavcic and colleagues from the University of Michigan are looking at a more portable diagnostic method that is easier to administer and may better assist in determining who needs the more complicated and expensive tests for a more definitive diagnosis. The National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health has awarded Kavcic a two-year, $420,000 grant to determine if an electroencephalograph (EEG) plus cognitive tests on a computer – or even the EEG alone – could be the answer.
“This is a community-based approach,” said Kavcic. “If we want more people to be diagnosed and treated, testing must be easy, fast, cheap and readily accepted. The tests we propose can be conducted in a church basement or a senior center. Older African Americans are at highest risk to develop Alzheimer’s from MCI, so they are the priority.”
Kavcic, along with Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center (MADC) Associate Director Bruno Giordani, Ph.D., and Edna Rose, Ph.D., the MADC minority recruitment specialist and a nurse and social worker, will recruit 200 older African Americans with no diagnosed cognitive impairment, but who feel their memory may be worsening. The database of volunteers compiled through the Participant Resource Pool (PRP) of the Healthier Black Elders Center will be vital in recruiting these people.