Senile dementia can be detected years before the symptoms even appear, according to Dutch medical researchers. This can be done by examining the size of two parts of the brain, according to the study. The two parts are amygdala and the hippocampus. Those with a smaller hippocampus or amygdala are much more likely to suffer from dementia, according to the Archives of General Psychiatry.
Both parts decline in size with the years as a result of the death of brain cells, say researchers at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam. The hippocampus is involved in emotions like aggression, fear and pleasure. It also plays a role in memory and navigation. In cases of Alzheimer's disease it degenerates.
The amygdala is also linked to emotions. It is bigger in men than in women. Many psychological illnesses are linked to the malfunctioning of the amygdala. Ten years ago the researchers selected 511 people older than 60, and monitored them for the next six years.
The group was divided into three: Those with a large, medium-sized or small hippocampus or amygdala. The group with the smallest organs was several times more likely to suffer dementia at some point, in the case of a small hippocampus four times more likely, and in the case of a small amygdala, six times.
The link between Alzheimer's and a small hippocampus or amygdala has been known for years, but the new research aims to predict Alzheimer's and other forms of brain degeneration long before it occurs. Although no effective medication is available, the researchers aim to pinpoint likely dementia victims ahead of time, with the aim of providing early care.