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Study Shows Hope for Early Diagnosis of Alzheimer's

tests administered at world-class research facilities, such as Penn, have a 90-percent accuracy rate. However, most people are evaluated at community hospitals and clinics, where the diagnostic accuracy is estimated to be around 75 percent.

Though the study’s accuracy rate is under that 90-percent figure, it still means the test potentially could have great value to physicians and patients and their families, and the results are particularly significant for patients who have limited access to teaching hospitals, where they may undergo six to 12 months of evaluation for a diagnosis.

“Currently, the state-of-the-art evaluation for Alzheimer’s disease is only available to those who have geographic proximity and/or financial ability to access research hospitals, where expert neuropsychologists continuously interview patients and caregivers over six to 12 months to make a diagnosis,” said Polikar, principal investigator on the project at Rowan. “But most people don’t have access to such facilities and instead go to community clinics and hospitals. Our methodology involves just one ‘snapshot’ that in itself is highly accurate and will be especially beneficial in these locations.”

"Modern engineering methods are enabling us to take EEG, an 80-year-old technique for measuring brain activity, and turn it into a cutting-edge tool for diagnosing Alzheimer's disease," Kounios added.

The team members hope that eventually they or other researchers will develop a hand-held device that can be used to conduct similar evaluations as those done by the Rowan/Penn//Drexel group.

“We don’t envision this replacing a neurologist,” Polikar said. “We hope it can serve as a first test for those folks who don’t have access to research facilities.” If the initial test indicates a possible problem, physicians could refer the patient to a research hospital for further evaluation.

“Our ultimate goal is to increase the number
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