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In-home sensors spot dementia signs in elderly

Portland, Ore. -- An Oregon Health & Science University study shows motion and door sensors placed in elders' homes can help track activity patterns thought to relate to memory changes that are early signs of dementia.

The study results, presented last week at the 10th International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders in Madrid, show that continuous, unobtrusive monitoring of in-home activity may be a reliable way of assessing changes in motor behaviors that may occur along with changes in memory.

"To see a trend over time, you need multiple measures - good days and bad days - and it often takes years to see that trend in a clinic setting," said Tamara Hayes, Ph.D., assistant professor of biomedical engineering at OHSU's OGI School of Science & Engineering, and the study's lead author. She noted that most clinic visits by elders are spaced over months or even years, and their memory and motor skills performances are evaluated in a small number of tests completed in a limited amount of time.

"In contrast, we're looking continuously at elders' activity in their own homes," Hayes said. "Since we're measuring a person's activity many times over a short period, we can understand their normal variability and identify trends. If there's a change over a period, you can see it quickly. "

Mild cognitive impairment is a known risk factor for dementia, a neurological disorder most commonly caused by Alzheimer's disease. Changes in clinical measures of activity, such as walking and finger-tapping speeds, have been shown to occur at about the same time as memory changes leading to dementia. By detecting subtle activity changes over time in the natural setting of an elder's home, researchers hope to more effectively identify when elders are starting to have trouble.

Hayes and colleagues in the OHSU Oregon Center for Aging & Technology - ORCATECH - used an unobtrusive "activity assessment system" to continuous
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Contact: Jonathan Modie
modiej@ohsu.edu
503-494-8231
Oregon Health & Science University
27-Jul-2006


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