BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS. The development of full-fledged Alzheimer's disease (AD) is preceded by a period of milder dementia and memory loss. Researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine now believe that they have found a test which will predict who will and who won't develop Alzheimer's disease as much as 10 years before the actual diagnosis is made. Their study, part of the large Framingham Study, involved 1076 men and women who were free of dementia at baseline (initial) neuropsychological testing. The participants were followed for 22 years and examined every two years to detect the presence of AD. During the follow-up period 109 of the participants were diagnosed with AD. The researchers found no correlation between education level or occupation and the likelihood of developing AD. They did observe that the participants who had developed AD had scored significantly poorer on standard memory retention and abstract reasoning tests administered ten years prior to their diagnosis. The researchers conclude that memory retention and abstract reasoning tests can be used with considerable accuracy to predict the likelihood of developing AD ten years down the road. This finding is important as it may give enough time to implement effective preventive measures.
Elias, Merrill F., et al. The preclinical phase of Alzheimer disease. Archives of Neurology, Vol. 57, June 2000, pp. 808-13