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SmartPhone App To Help Identify Early Signs Of Alzheimer’s Disease

3 months, 3 weeks ago

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Posted on Mar 28, 2024, 6 p.m.

The digital approach may pave the way for better early diagnosis according to collaborative research from DZNE, the Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison with the Magdeburg-based company "neotiv" published in the journal npj Digital Medicine, dedicated memory tests on smartphones and tablets help to enable the early detection of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which may indicate Alzheimer’s disease, with high accuracy. Additionally, the evaluated app is now being offered to medical doctors to support the early detection of cognitive problems. 

"It has advantages if you can carry out such tests on your own and only have to visit the doctor's office to evaluate the results. Just as we know it from a long-term ECG, for example. Unsupervised testing would help to detect clinically relevant memory impairment at an earlier stage and track disease progression more closely than is currently possible. In view of recent developments in Alzheimer's therapy and new treatment options, early diagnosis is becoming increasingly important,” said Prof. Emrah Düzel, a senior neuroscientist at DZNE's Magdeburg site and at University Magdeburg as well as an entrepreneur in medical technology, and "Chief Medical Officer" of "neotiv, who advocates a new approach.

"As part of the validation process, we applied these novel remote and unsupervised assessments as well as an established in-clinic neuropsychological test battery. We found that the novel method is comparable to in-clinic assessments and detects mild cognitive impairment, also known as MCI, with high accuracy. This technology has enormous potential to provide clinicians with information that they cannot obtain during a patient visit to the clinic,” explains Dr. David Berron, research group leader at DZNE and also co-founder of neotiv.

"We found that a majority of our WRAP participants were able to complete the unsupervised digital tasks remotely and they were satisfied with the tasks and the digital platform," says Lindsay Clark, PhD, neuropsychologist and lead investigator of the Assessing Memory with Mobile Devices study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"Assessments with the neotiv app are interactive and comprise three types of memory tasks. These address different areas of the brain that can be affected by Alzheimer's disease in different disease stages. Many years of research have gone into this," Düzel explains. "Our study shows that memory complaints can be meaningfully assessed using this digital, remote and unsupervised approach," says Düzel. "If the results from the digital assessment indicate that there is memory impairment typical of MCI, this paves the way for further clinical examinations. If test results indicate that memory is within the age-specific normal range, individuals can be given an all-clear signal for the time being. And for Alzheimer's disease research, this approach provides a digital cognitive assessment tool that can be used in clinical studies -- as is already being done in Germany, the USA, Sweden, and other countries."

 "Information about how quickly memory declines over time is important for medical doctors and patients. It is also important for clinical trials as new treatments aim to slow the rate of cognitive decline,” said Berron.  "To advance such self-tests, a patient's clinical data must be linked to self-tests outside the clinic, in the real-world. This is no easy task, but as our current study shows, we are making progress as a field."

This study involved 199 participants over the age of 60 who were involved in one of two long-term observational studies addressing Alzheimer’s disease: the DZNE's DELCODE study (Longitudinal Cognitive Impairment and Dementia Study) and the WRAP (Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer's Prevention) study of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The participants reflected varying cognitive conditions as they occur in real-world situations as well as those who were cognitively healthy who underwent multiple memory assessments. 

Additional research is either already underway or in preparation involving larger study groups which will also investigate if the app can be used to track the progression of Alzheimer’s disease over a longer period of time. 

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. 

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