A word recall test is able to differentiate those who will get Alzheimer's disease from healthy older people. Alzheimer's disease is chiefly a condition of older people - so we can expect an increase in the number of cases as the population ages. Treatments are now available and they seem to work best if they start early. This means early diagnosis is a priority.
Researchers at the University of Toronto have been analysing investigations on 1,000 Alzheimer's patients to try to determine the best methods of early diagnosis. They find that those who performed poorly on a test called the California Verbal Learning Test were most at risk. This involves testing verbal memory.
The learning test was a stronger predictor of future Alzheimer's disease than brain imaging. But shrinkage of the hippocampus - an area concerned with memory and learning - is also a warning sign of future dementia. Further research will help reveal how to diagnose and offer early help to those at risk of Alzheimer's dementia.