New tool for detecting preclinical Alzheimer’s

Before any symptoms develop that can lead to a clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, navigational tasks to assess a mapping strategy may detect the very earliest changes in cognition related to Alzheimer’s disease, according to researchers at Washington University in St. Louis. Since navigation problems begin early in AD, the spatial task used is more sensitive than the standard psychometric task of episodic memory in detecting deterioration and shrinkage in the prefrontal cortex, the hippocampus (creation of cognitive maps), and the caudate (new learning).  While the sample size was relatively small, results indicate spatial navigation tasks are a powerful tool for the very earliest detection.