A new study suggests that Alzheimer’s disease can be detected decades before onset, using a virtual reality test.
People aged 18 to 30 were asked to navigate through a virtual maze to test the function of certain brain cells.
According to German neuroscientists, those with a high genetic risk of Alzheimer’s could be identified by their performance.
The findings could help future research, diagnosis and treatment, researchers report in the journal Science.
The scientists, led by Lukas Kunz of the German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Bonn, say the high risk group navigated the maze differently and had reduced functioning of a type of brain cell involved in spatial navigation.
The findings could give an insight into why people with dementia can find navigating the world around them challenging, they say.
“Our results could provide a new basic framework for preclinical research on Alzheimer’s disease and may provide a neurocognitive explanation of spatial disorientation in Alzheimer’s disease,” Science report says.
Although genes play a role in dementia, their effects are complex with many unknowns.
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder which leads to progressive deterioration of motor function due to loss of dopamine-producing brain cells.
It is characterized by progressive loss of muscle control, which leads to trembling of the limbs and head while at rest, stiffness, slowness, and impaired balance. As symptoms worsen, it may become difficult to walk, talk, and complete simple tasks.
Primary symptoms include tremor, stiffness, slowness, impaired balance, and later on a shuffling gait.
They are all related to voluntary and involuntary motor function:
- Tremors: Trembling in fingers, hands, arms, feet, legs, jaw, or head.
- Rigidity: Stiffness of the limbs and trunk, which may increase during movement. Rigidity may produce muscle aches and pain.
- Bradykinesia: Slowness of voluntary movement.
- Postural instability: Impaired or lost reflexes can make it difficult to adjust posture to maintain balance.
- Parkinsonian gait: Individuals with more progressive Parkinson’s disease develop a distinctive shuffling walk with a stooped position and a diminished or absent arm swing.
Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder and the most common movement disorder
Most individuals with Parkinson’s disease are diagnosed when they are 60 or older, but early-onset Parkinson’s disease also occurs.
With proper treatment, most individuals with Parkinson’s disease can lead long, productive lives for many years after diagnosis.
Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder and the most common movement disorder.
The progression of Parkinson’s disease and the degree of impairment vary from individual to individual. Many people with Parkinson’s disease live long productive lives, whereas others become disabled much more quickly. Premature death is usually due to complications such as falling-related injuries or pneumonia.
In the US, about 1 million people are affected by Parkinson’s disease and worldwide about 5 million. Parkinson’s disease occurs in approximately 1% of individuals aged 60 years and in about 4% of those aged 80 years. Since overall life expectancy is rising, the number of individuals with Parkinson’s disease will increase in the future. Adult-onset Parkinson’s disease is most common, but early-onset Parkinson’s disease (onset between 21 and40 years), and juvenile-onset Parkinson’s disease (onset before age 21) also exist.
Descriptions of Parkinson’s disease date back as far as 5000 BC. Around that time, an ancient Indian civilization called the disorder Kampavata and treated it with the seeds of a plant containing therapeutic levels of what is today known as levodopa. Parkinson’s disease was named after the British doctor James Parkinson, who in 1817 first described the disorder in great detail as “shaking palsy.”
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