- New research has revealed that eye-tracking tests may be the key to predicting which patients with mild cognitive impairments (MCI) will develop Alzheimer’s disease
- People with MCI have a significantly increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease compared to people with normal cognitive function. However, not all types of MCI are associated with Alzheimer’s development
- Previous research found ‘aMCI’ patients to be at much greater risk of progressing to Alzheimer's disease than healthy adults and patients with other MCIs. It is important to identify who is at high risk so interventions can be put in place early
- The current method for diagnosing Alzheimer’s can be problematic. Experts are trying to identify biomarkers (biological signs in the body) for the disease and develop inexpensive and non-invasive methods to identify them
- The new study shows that eye-tracking can be used to identify which MCI patients have aMCI. It further supports that eye movement impairments could be used as a biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease and eye-tracking is a promising diagnostic tool
- It is hoped the research will contribute towards the development of eye-tracking methodologies for early diagnosis of patients at an increased risk of the condition.
NEW research has found that it may be possible to predict if people with mild memory and thinking impairments will go onto develop Alzheimer’s disease using eye-tracking technology.
Dr Thom Wilcockson, of Loughborough University’s School of Sports, Exercise and Health Sciences, says he hopes the findings in a new paper he is the lead author of will contribute towards the early diagnosis of patients at an increased risk of the condition and ensure interventions can be put in place sooner.
The study, which has been published in the Aging journal, further supports that eye movement impairments have the potential to be used as a biomarker (an indicator) for Alzheimer’s disease and eye tracking is a promising diagnostic tool.
It also reveals that eye-tracking tests can identify patients considered to be at high risk of developing the disease.
The research is based on work by senior author Dr Trevor Crawford of Lancaster University, where Dr Wilcockson worked before joining Loughborough.
The study, which was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Council (EPSRC), was carried out in collaboration with the University of Oulu, Aston University, Trinity College, University of Manchester and the Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust.
It is hoped this research will contribute towards the development of eye-tracking methodologies for early diagnosis of patients at an increased risk of the condition.
Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
Dementia is the name for a group of symptoms that commonly include problems with memory, thinking, problem-solving, language and perception.
It is not a disease in its own right but is caused by diseases that damage the brain by causing a loss of nerve cells.
Alzheimer’s disease is a severe neurodegenerative disease of the human brain and the most common cause of dementia.
There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, however, treatments may temporarily ease some symptoms or slow down their progression in some cases.
Current diagnosis of Alzheimer's relies largely on documenting mental decline, which can be problematic as, by the time it has been identified, the disease may have already caused severe brain damage, rendering some treatments ineffective.
Researchers and dementia charities hope to discover an easy and accurate way to detect Alzheimer's before these symptoms begin.