An early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, which affects memory thinking skills, and quality of life, can help people and their caregivers educate themselves about it, explore therapeutic measures to help with potential cognitive decline and make informed choices. A new study has developed a unique way to identify the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease using a headband device.
The study, by researchers from the University of Colorado (CU)Anschutz Medical Campus and Washington University in St. Louis, has found a way to examine brain activity in sleep to detect the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease, which might be several years before symptoms are visible, according to a press statement by CU.
The digital biomarker uses electroencephalography (EEG) that can be recorded using a simple headband to detect brain wave patterns related to memory reactivation in sleep. These patterns are linked to the system that processes memories in deep sleep. They showed that results showed that the headband could identify a relationship between EEG readings and levels of some molecular changes that indicate pre-symptomatic Alzheimer’s disease, according to the statement. The findings were published in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association. The biomarker also showed that EEG signals could also detect early stages of mild cognitive impairment caused by Alzheimer’s disease.
“Demonstrating how we can assess digital biomarkers for early indications of disease using accessible and scalable headband devices in a home setting is a huge advancement in catching and mitigating Alzheimer’s disease at the earliest stages,” said Brice McConnell, senior author of the study in the statement. According to the researchers, this is the largest study of its kind to date.
The scientists found abnormal levels of proteins are related to sleep memory reactivations, which could be detected in people’s brainwave patterns before they experienced any symptoms. This is a step towards using wearables such as the digital biomarker for disease detection, according to the statement. “This is proof of principle that brain waves during sleep can be turned into a digital biomarker, and our next steps involve perfecting the process,” McConnell said in the statement.
Researchers have been studying early indications of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease to help people develop preventative or mitigation strategies before the disease advances. In July 2023, a new study by researchers at the University of Chicago found that people who carry the gene variant APOE e4, linked to an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease, could lose their sense of smell first, indicating Alzheimer’s disease, according to Earth.com.