We use our GPS to get everywhere these days. What’s the first thing we do in a new city or on vacation? Check the GPS. If your car doesn’t have one installed, then your phone has an app. In April, a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease suggested that an early sign of Alzheimer’s could be something as common as difficulty in remembering how to get around in a new location.
The study performed by researchers from Washington University in St. Louis , looked at three groups of people: 42 clinically normal individuals who lacked the cerebrospinal fluid markers for Alzheimer’s, 13 clinically normal individuals who were positive for these markers and thus had preclinical Alzheimer’s, and 16 individuals with documented behavioral symptoms of early stage Alzheimer’s.
Researchers used a virtual maze to help assess cognitive map skills; a test more sensitive at detecting preclinical Alzheimer’s. While previous findings are well documented, this type of testing hadn’t been used to study patients who have yet to be diagnosed and are heading towards preclinical Alzheimer’s. Patients were all tested for two hours. They were tested on how well they could learn a preset route, and their ability to form a new route from their own memory. Later, they were tested on recounting that route.
The study found the patients with the preclinical markers had more difficulty than the group without the markers. The early onset stage group struggled with both tests and the preclinical group had no problems with following a preset route, but struggled with the route they had to form from memory.
“These findings suggest that navigational tasks designed to assess a cognitive mapping strategy could represent a powerful new tool for detecting the very earliest Alzheimer’s disease-related changes in cognition,” said senior author Denise Head, PhD, associate professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences in Arts & Sciences.
Help in caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s is available in different forms, such as forums, support groups, educational programs and safety tools. Approved Home Health has aides available who have received specialized training in caring for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and can provide care that allows clients to remain in the home while offering relief to primary caregivers. Call today for your complimentary in-home nursing assessment at 941-870-8740.