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Virtual Reality headsets may reveal preclinical Alzheimer’s disease.

 

 

Virtual reality (VR) headsets can reveal navigational issues in people at increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease before any declines in memory appear, new research has shown.


The headsets flagged spatial navigation problems even when there were no concerns in cognitive tests, according to the findings in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

The article from Inside Precision Medicine, says that the findings are consistent with the idea that Alzheimer’s-related tau proteins initially deposit in the entorhinal cortex of the brain—whose grid cells are crucial to path integration—where they disrupt the spatially-related firing of neurons.

The research may improve the detection of the clinical onset of Alzheimer’s, which is critical for the prompt use of treatment.IME Alzheimer 1 HIThe team tested the spatial navigation of 100 cognitively healthy, middle-aged adults, aged 43 and 66 years who had a hereditary or physiological risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

This was due to either carrying the APOE-ε4 allele or having a family history of Alzheimer’s disease, each of which is associated with a three-fold increase in risk, or alternatively having lifestyle risk factors such as low levels of physical activity, education levels or vascular health indicators.

The participants, who were recruited from the PREVENT-Dementia prospective cohort study, were approximately two decades younger than their estimated age for the onset of dementia.

Their ability on path integration in immersive virtual reality was compared with other cognitive domains, with behavioral data in some also compared with brain structure and function on 7T magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The team found that impaired path integration predicted both a hereditary and physiological risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Crucially, this occurred without similar impairment in other aspects of spatial behavior or in episodic memory tests. The path-integration issues were associated with altered functional MRI signal in the posterior-medial entorhinal cortex.

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