August 27, 2012
Simple Eye-Tracking Test Developed To Diagnose Alzheimer’s
John Neumann for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
A simple, eye-tracking test could help diagnose Alzheimer´s disease earlier and with more success than current methods, reports The Telegraph. Researchers from UK´s Lancaster University, studying the diseases, have developed the tracking test, in partnership with Royal Preston Hospital.
Alzheimer´s disease, which is the most common cause of dementia, affects approximately 500,000 people in the UK. The disease process starts many years before the symptoms begin to appear and the earlier that treatments begin, the better success from its effects are found.
Dr. Trevor Crawford, of the department of Psychology and the Centre for Ageing Research, Lancaster University, explained, “The diagnosis of Alzheimer´s disease is currently heavily dependent on the results of a series of lengthy neuropsychological tests."
“However, patients with a dementia often find that these tests are difficult to complete due to a lack of clear understanding and lapse in their attention or motivation," he added.
“Over the last 10 years, researchers in laboratories around the world have been working on an alternative approach based on the brain´s control of the movements of the eye as a tool for investigating cognitive abilities, such as attention, cognitive inhibition and memory,” said Crawford.
Eighteen patients with Alzheimer´s disease, 25 patients with Parkinson´s disease, along with 17 healthy young people and 18 healthy older people were asked to follow the movements of light on a computer monitor, however in some instances they were asked to look the opposite way, away from the light.
A stark contrast in results were seen in the detailed eye-tracking measurements taken from the group, reports Lancaster University News. Patients with Alzheimer´s made errors on the task where they were asked to look away from the light and were unable to correct those errors, despite the fact that they were able to respond perfectly normal when they were asked to look towards the light.
Alzheimer sufferers were 10 times more likely to fail the test compared to the control groups.
Memory function was also measured among those Alzheimer´s patients who found the test difficult and were able to show a clear correlation with lower memory function. Dr. Crawford said of the results,“The light tracking test could play a vital role in diagnosis as it allows us to identify, and exclude number alternative explanations of the test results.”