A Decline in Navigational Skills Could Predict Neurodegenerative Disease

Is it possible to predict if someone will have Alzheimer’s disease or not? Researchers have been studying the link between navigational skills and neurodegenerative disease to enhance our understanding and ability to treat the disease. Alzheimer’s gets diagnosed based on medical history, genetic risk factors, and how well the person does on tests that measure language, memory and reasoning. However, navigation performance is not among the tested skills, but is now being recognized as one of the early signs of Alzheimer’s. If Alzheimer’s could be diagnosed and treated earlier, patients would benefit greatly. Using navigation-based tests is still being held back by a few obstacles, one of which is the fact there are no current standard tests. Thanks to advances in virtual reality technology, navigational testing is able to continue to progress. Researchers are also looking at tracking a person’s navigational abilities long-term, in order to see how it changes with age. Technology such as GPS help us in our everyday lives, but researchers point out that it does not force us to use the navigational skills part of our brain as often as we should. Even this is being evaluated to see if it is contributing to neurodegenerative conditions.

Key Points:

  • 1The parts of the brain concerned with navigation are very sensitive to aging as well as neuronal degeneration, and thus may be a new marker along with memory and reasoning to assess cognitive issues.
  • 2VR technology may prove to help scientists diagnose early Alzheimer’s, by simulating and testing navigational skills, to determine one’s mental decline.
  • 3One scientist suggest that humans rely less on GPS and other hi-tech gear, and more on their own brains to keep up healthy cognitive function.

It can take up to 10 years after the onset of Alzheimer’s for someone to show abnormal results on the standard cognitive tests that are available today, and that’s 10 years that you’ve lost for treating it, should an effective therapy come along down the road,

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