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Study Shows Hope for Early Diagnosis of Alzheimer's

Research by faculty and staff at Rowan University, Glassboro, N.J.; the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine; and Drexel University may lead to better// diagnosis of early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.

In a $1.1-million National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging study that team members conducted during the last three years, they determined early Alzheimer’s could be diagnosed with a high rate of accuracy evaluating electroencephalogram (EEG) signals. The study may lead to an earlier diagnosis, and therefore earlier treatment and improved quality of life, for people at the earliest stages of the disease.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the condition affects more than 5 million Americans, approximately 1.5 percent of the population. That number is only expected to grow.

Rowan University electrical and computer engineering associate professor Dr. Robi Polikar conducted the research with Dr. Christopher Clark, associate professor of neurology, associate director of the NIH-sponsored Alzheimer's Disease Center at Penn and director of the Penn Memory Center, and with Dr. John Kounios, a Drexel psychology professor.

“Individuals in the earliest stage of Alzheimer’s disease are often not aware of their progressing memory loss, and family members often believe the changes are simply due to aging,” Clark said. “Even the patient’s personal physician may be reluctant to initiate an evaluation until a considerable degree of brain failure has occurred. The advantage of using a modified EEG to detect these early changes is that it is non-invasive, simple to do, can be repeated when necessary and can be done in a physician’s office. This makes it an ideal method to screen elderly individuals for the earliest indication of this common scourge of late life.”

The researchers employed signal processing and automated neural network analysis of event related potentials (ERPs) of the EEG signals
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