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1-min read

Smartphone Apps Can Now Help Detect Early Signs of Alzheimer’s

These apps would run on smartphones and smart watches. As well as looking for changes in how we navigate, the apps will track changes in other everyday activities such as sleep and communication.

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Updated:May 25, 2019, 11:24 AM IST
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Smartphone Apps Can Now Help Detect Early Signs of Alzheimer’s
These apps would run on smartphones and smart watches. As well as looking for changes in how we navigate, the apps will track changes in other everyday activities such as sleep and communication.
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Scientists believe smartphones will play a crucial role in diagnosing Alzheimer’s and monitoring its progression. Virtual reality (VR) can identify early Alzheimer's disease more accurately than 'gold standard' cognitive tests currently in use; Science Daily quotes a new study from the University of Cambridge. The study highlights the potential of new technologies to help diagnose and monitor conditions such as Alzheimer's disease.

A team of scientists at the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Cambridge led by Dr Dennis Chan collaborated with University College London’s Professor Neil Burgess to develop and try a VR navigation test in patients at risk of developing dementia. The team recruited 45 patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition which can indicate early Alzheimer's but can also be caused by anxiety and even normal ageing.

The researchers took samples of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to look for biomarkers of underlying Alzheimer's disease in their MCI patients, with 12 testing positive. The researchers also recruited 41 age-matched healthy controls for comparison.

All of the patients with MCI performed worse on the navigation task than the healthy controls. Besides, the study yielded two other crucial observations: MCI patients with positive CSF markers performed worse than those with negative CSF markers and VR navigation task was better at differentiating between these low and high risk MCI patients than a battery of currently-used tests considered to be gold standard for the diagnosis of early Alzheimer's.

That is why, Dr Chan, who believes technology can play a crucial role in diagnosing and monitoring Alzheimer's disease, is working with Professor Cecilia Mascolo at Cambridge's Centre for Mobile, Wearable Systems and Augmented Intelligence to develop apps for detecting the disease and monitoring its progression.

These apps would run on smartphones and smart watches. As well as looking for changes in how we navigate, the apps will track changes in other everyday activities such as sleep and communication.

Dr Chan said, "We know that Alzheimer's affects the brain long before symptoms become apparent."

He added, "We live in a world where mobile devices are almost ubiquitous, and so app-based approaches have the potential to diagnose Alzheimer's disease at minimal extra cost and at a scale way beyond that of brain scanning and other current diagnostic approaches.”

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