While its obvious that people with Alzheimers disease are losing their memory, thats only part of the reason why they become lost, says neurologist Charles Duffy, M.D., Ph.D., who leads the research team at the University of Rochester Medical Center. These patients also lose their ability to perceive their own motion. Thats ultimately what puts them at much greater risk than others of becoming lost.
In the current study, the team studied 26 elderly patients with Alzheimers disease, 50 healthy elderly adults, and 32 healthy young adults. Scientists performed a variety of tests to measure participants vision and ability to perceive motion, and then put the Alzheimers patients who were still driving through a standard New York State driving test.
As in previous studies, older patients had more difficulty with memory than younger patients, and among older patients, Alzheimers patients had a much harder time detecting motion than their healthy counterparts.
In addition, the 11 Alzheimers patients who were still able to drive took the driving test: They performed adequately on all aspects of the test except the portion that measures their own knowledge of their location on the road. They tended to drift out of their lane, either across the middle or to the right, and they had difficulty knowing how close or far away they were from the car in front of them.
These people werent just bad drivers. They were bad drivers in a particular way, says Duffy. They couldnt judge where they we
Contact: Tom Rickey
University of Rochester Medical Center