By using advances in technology, researchers may be able to see subtle changes in a person’s behavior that could provide premature clues to the development of Alzheimer’s, according to Medical Xpress.
Researchers are using sensors to monitor volunteers’ driving habits, computer usage and medication habits. This information could give the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center researchers key insights on specific Alzheimer clues and provide therapy to patients that could slow down the disease’s progression.
“These kind of subtle cues are not picked up early on when interventions could be put in place,” said Adriana Seelye, VA neuropsychologist leading the research. “A lot of times, people don’t come to our attention until there is a crisis.”
Seelye’s research showed that changes in the way a person uses their computer and move their mouse could help predict mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a potential precursor to Alzheimer’s. Additionally, another study found that people with MCI were more cautious and predictable drivers.
In light of that information, Seelye hopes to assess behavior changes and determine whether the combination of changes can offer precursor clues to Alzheimer’s. She is recruiting 130 senior volunteers who currently do not have Alzheimer’s or dementia related diseases.
Volunteers in the study will be tracked for four years and wear fitness trackers to measure sleep and movement. Additionally, in-car computer data will show changes throughout the years in their average speed, highway usage and right versus left turn choices.
Other researchers have assessed changes in speech and voice over time to help predict Alzheimer’s, but detecting this disease early is vital, Seelye said.
Alzheimer’s symptoms “develop very slowly,” Seelye said. “This makes it very difficult for us as clinicians.”