Scientists in the US have developed a new technology that they claim will revolutionise the detection of Alzheimer’s disease, creating a simple yet effective way to detect the disease before symptoms appear, all while you are peacefully asleep.
A simple headband dubbed the “fitbit for the brain” was developed by scientists at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and Washington University in St. Louis.
Brice McConnell from the University of Colorado School of Medicine and study senior author said the device acts as a “fitness tracker for brain health”.
The researchers theorised that by using electroencephalography (EEG), the headgear device is able to detect brain wave patterns and find potential “biomarker properties” related to memory reactivation during sleep. They believe that changes in how these brain patterns work together could be a sign of early Alzheimer’s disease.
The initial medical study entailed getting more than 200 patients in their 70s to wear the headband six nights a week over a two-year period to measure how well brain patterns are connected to each other. All participants were either cognitively unimpaired or very mildly cognitively impaired.
A study’s findings, published recently by Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, found there is a link between the EEG readings and levels of specific changes in the brain that signify pre-symptomatic Alzheimer’s disease or the early stages of mild cognitive impairment due to the disease.
“Identifying these early biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease in asymptomatic adults can help patients develop preventative or mitigation strategies before the disease advances,” McConnell said.
“We are just scratching the surface with this work, paving the way for affordable and easy-to-use devices to monitor brain health.”
Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia mostly affecting people in their old age. Through a decrease in specific neuro chemicals, the disease disrupts the brain’s neurons, affecting how they work and resulting in impaired memory, thinking and behaviour.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, in 2022 there were 401,300 Australians living with dementia and nearly two-thirds of them were women.
There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s however much research has been done to better understand the disease and mitigate its impacts.
In January 2023, Dementia Australia welcomed the approval of a “truly historic” Alzheimer’s drug, lecanemab, by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The much-anticipated drug made headlines around the world after research showed positive signs in decreasing the rate of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients.
Research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, demonstrated that the drug was able to slow the rate of decline in people’s memory and thinking as well as function over 18 months, and also helped people manage day-to-day activities.
The signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include: