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A new analysis of a standard brain test may help predict dementia

Although Alzheimer's disease affects millions of people worldwide, there is no way to identify this devastating brain disease at its earliest stages when there still may be time to delay or even prevent the downward spiral into dementia. In research settings, scientists are using sophisticated tools like MRI and PET to distinguish characteristics of brain function and anatomy that indicate future problems, providing a sort of screening test for the brain.

Now a new study by a research group at NYU School of Medicine demonstrates that the earliest manifestations of Alzheimer's, when the first signs of memory loss appear, can be screened with a relatively inexpensive, painless, and easy-to-use tool called an EEG (electroencephalograph).

In the study, published in the upcoming on-line issue of the journal Neurobiology of Aging, the researchers demonstrate that a computer analysis of the EEG, which measures the brain's electrical activity, accurately predicted healthy people in their 60s and 70s who would develop dementia over the next 7 to 10 years. It also identified individuals who would remain virtually unchanged over the same time span. The EEGs were almost 95 percent accurate in identifying those who would decline cognitively and those who would not, according to the study.

"Our results suggest that quantitative analysis of the EEG is sensitive to the earliest signs of the dementing process," says Leslie S. Prichep, Ph.D., Associate Director of the Brain Research Laboratories of the Department of Psychiatry, who led the study. Some day she says it may be used as one of the tools to evaluate a person's propensity for developing Alzheimer's, the most common form of dementia affecting people over 65. But for now the results need to be replicated in and validated by much larger prospective studies before they can be applied to screen large populations.

It takes about 30 minutes to perform an EEG, which invo
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Contact: Pamela McDonnell
Pamela.McDonnell@nyumc.org
212-404-3555
New York University Medical Center and School of Medicine
5-Oct-2005


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