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Brain Waves of Alzheimer'sA study conducted at the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas-Dallas found a possible predictor for who is more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease that can be tested for fairly cheaply and easily.

Amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) is a specific type of cognitive impairment that is characterized by deficits in episodic memory.  Episodic memory is the type of memory that allows us to retain new memories of events, such as conversations, upcoming appointments, or other things that happen in our daily lives.  Individuals with aMCI are about twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s compared to those who do not have this impairment.

The study indicates that those with aMCI display different brain wave activity while performing a word-finding task while undergoing an electroencephalogram (EEG) than those who do not have the condition.  This test is fairly easy and inexpensive to administer, and it could be a way to determine who is more prone to developing Alzheimer’s later in life.

In those with aMCI, there was delayed neural activity during the task.  And the greater the delay of neural activity, the greater the cognitive impairment.  In other words, there was a direct correlation between how quickly the neurons fired and how well the individual was able to perform.

The study included 16 people with aMCI and 17 people who were healthy but were the same age as those with aMCI.  The small sample size means that the evidence cannot be considered conclusive at this time, but it could be the beginnings of a way to earlier detect a person’s susceptibility to Alzheimer’s than what we previously have had.

The study’s lead author, Hsueh-Sheng Chiang, M.D., Ph.D., was a research doctoral student at Center for BrainHealth at the time of the study. He is now a post-doctoral fellow at UT Southwestern Medical Center.  As he explains it, “We think this might be more sensitive and more specific in pointing out certain cognitive deficits, in this case semantic memory, than other non-EEG methods available, because EEG reflects direct neural activity.  This protocol could potentially provide complementary information for diagnosis of pre-dementia stages including MCI and identify neural changes that can occur in cases of Alzheimer’s disease.”

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