Memory problems are typically one of the first warning signs of cognitive loss, possibly due to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Some people with memory problems have a condition called amnestic mild cognitive impairment (MCI). People with this condition have more memory problems than normal for people their age, but their symptoms are not as severe as those seen in people with Alzheimer’s disease. Other recent studies have found links between some movement difficulties and MCI.
Researchers also have seen links between MCI and some problems with the sense of smell. The ability of people with MCI to perform normal daily activities is not significantly impaired. However, more older people with MCI, compared with those without MCI, go on to develop Alzheimer’s.
A decline in other areas of cognition, such as word-finding, vision/spatial issues, and impaired reasoning or judgment, may also signal the very early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists are looking to see whether brain imaging and biomarker studies of people with MCI and those with a family history of Alzheimer’s, can detect early changes in the brain like those seen in Alzheimer’s.
Initial studies indicate that early detection using biomarkers and imaging may be possible, but findings will need to be confirmed by other studies before these techniques can be used to help with diagnosis in everyday medical practice.
These and other studies offer hope that someday we may have tools that could help detect Alzheimer’s early, track the course of the disease, and monitor response to treatments.
Excerpt – National Institute on Aging