A simple eye tracking test could lead to an earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, Lancashire researchers have discovered.
Work led by Royal Preston Hospital, in partnership with Lancaster University, has shown that people with Alzheimer’s Disease have difficulty with one particular type of eye tracking test.
The findings could help differentiate between normal memory loss caused by ageing and the form of dementia. If Alzheimer’s is diagnosed early, treatment can slow its onset.
Dr Trevor Crawford from the department of psychology and the centre for aging research at Lancaster University, said: “The diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is currently heavily dependent on the results of a series of lengthy neuropsychological tests.
“However, patients with a dementia often find that these tests are difficult to complete due to a lack of clear understanding and lapse in their attention or motivation.
“Over the last 10 years, researchers in laboratories around the world have been working on an alternative approach based on the brain’s control of the movements of the eye as a tool for investigating cognitive abilities such as attention, cognitive inhibition and memory.
“This study takes that work forward because we found strong evidence the difficulty in noticing and correcting the errors was probably caused by a problem in the memory networks of the brain.”
As part of the study, 18 patients with Alzheimer’s Disease, 25 with Parkinson’s disease, 17 healthy young people and 18 healthy older people were asked to follow the movements of light on a computer monitor.
Patients with Alzheimer’s made errors when asked to look away from the light and were unable correct them. Such uncorrected errors were 10 times more frequent in Alzheimer’s patients.