The key to early detection is found in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain and spinal cord. Researchers say that patients already diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment show a drop in levels, which appear to be a sign of Alzheimer’s years before symptoms develop.
The discovery is published in the this month’s issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.
The study results stem from more than nine years of follow-up to prior research that had involved 137 patients diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, a mental state that often precedes dementia. Over the course of the study, nearly 54 percent of the patients went on to develop Alzheimer’s, while another 16 percent were ultimately diagnosed with different forms of dementia.
The study team said that they believe that about nine out of every 10 patients with mild cognitive impairment who experience such fluid shifts will eventually go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
The results of the European study largely echo those of a trial reported by researchers at the U.S. National Institutes of Health in 2010. Methods of early detection might prove valuable for research into the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
For more on early signs of Alzheimer’s, visit the Alzheimer’s Association.