Why is this research important?
Alzheimer’s currently affects around 17% of people aged between 75 and 84. The total number of sufferers is predicted to double within the next 20 years. Alzheimer’s is a disease with a reach that extends well beyond the progressive, debilitating effects experienced by the sufferer. It makes people dependent upon others, places pressure on family and friends, especially those who become primary carers, and is estimated to cost the UK economy over £24bn per year – which is more than cancer and heart disease combined. This research may enable clinicians to diagnose and manage this devastating condition earlier than is currently possible.
What are we doing?
While there are many factors that can determine the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s, the presence of the APOE E4 gene is known to carry a significantly higher risk. This study compares patterns of memory performance in both people with this gene and others with lower risk variants. The aim of the study is to investigate if APOE E4 carriers not experiencing memory loss, have different memory performance patterns to their lower-risk counterparts which might indicate the possibility of Alzheimer’s-related brain changes.
The team has developed a novel memory task that allows the measurement of memory resolution over seconds and minutes. They are also using an app developed by collaborators at the Big Data Institute that allows measurement across days. With follow-up assessments, the team will be able to track memory performance over years, and examine the relationship between early changes in memory and the later development or avoidance of Alzheimer’s in at-risk individuals.
What do we hope to achieve?
It is hoped that this study will reveal potential behavioural markers for Alzheimer’s disease. This would allow earlier diagnosis and enhance the efficacy of any future treatments.
In developing cognitive memory tests and allowing the use of remote apps, the team seeks to bring effective screening and diagnosis tools to communities and individuals unable to afford or access MRI or other neuroimaging technology.