AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 2, 2017

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Detecting Alzheimer’s Disease Before Symptoms Emerge

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Cognitive tests can detect early Alzheimer’s disease in older adults without symptoms, according to a new Keck School of Medicine of USC study

Long before symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease become apparent to patients and their families, biological changes are occurring within the brain. Amyloid plaques, which are clusters of protein fragments, along with tangles of protein known as tau, form in the brain and grow in number, eventually getting in the way of the brain’s ability to function. These biological changes can be detected early in the course of Alzheimer’s disease through positron emission tomography (PET) scan or cerebrospinal fluid analysis. Now, a new study led by Keck Medicine of USC neuropsychologist Duke Han, PhD, associate professor of family medicine (clinical scholar) at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California suggests that cognitive tests are also able to detect early Alzheimer’s in people without symptoms. “In the last decade or so, there has been a lot of work on biomarkers for early Alzheimer’s disease,” Han says.

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