Alzheimer's care could be affected by a new discovery that suggests that individuals developing this form of dementia might begin losing certain abilities before their memory.
The October issue of the medical journal Archives of Neurology includes a report that claims visuospatial skills, which allow the brain to perceive how objects relate to one another, can weaken in elderly men and women who might be developing Alzheimer's disease before their capacity to recall memories does.
"Recent studies have focused on identifying the beginning of the transition from healthy aging to dementia," wrote the authors of the report.
"As new interventions become available, it will become important to identify the disease as early as possible."
The report was based on research conducted by Dr David Johnson of the University of Kansas. He and his colleagues examined 444 people between 1979 and 2006, none of whom had dementia. Dr Johnson or one of his partners would normally follow up with the participants about six years after the initial assessment and test cognitive abilities like verbal memory and visuospatial skill.
Dr Johnson found that 134 people developed dementia and 310 did not. "Some of the earliest signs of preclinical disease may occur on tests of visuospatial and speeded psychomotor skills," wrote the doctor and his colleagues.