Brain Challenge Test to Predict Alzheimer’s Twenty Years Early


LOS ANGELES. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Right now, a spinal fluid test can signal Alzheimer’s disease up to twenty years before clinical onset. The proteins beta-amyloid and tau are established markers of Alzheimer’s, and changes in their levels may signal disease. Someday, a simple test at the computer and non-invasive EEG scan may do the same thing.

Eighty-nine-year-old Anne Snyder knows Alzheimer’s disease. It killed Frank, her husband of 61 years. It’s why she joined an early Alzheimer’s detection study at Huntington Medical Research Institutes.

Snyder told Ivanhoe, “I think it’s one little thing I can do that may help. It’s totally irrational, but I feel like I’m helping him.”

Michael Harrington, M.D., director of Neurosciences Huntington Medical Research Institutes in Los Angeles, California, created a brain challenge to find biomarkers for Alzheimer’s decades before symptoms start. Participants take tests while wearing a cap that tracks brain activity.

Dr. Harrington explained, “You can pick up early heart disease by running on a treadmill. We’d like to do the same for the brain, except you don’t run the brain on a treadmill, you ask it few questions, and that’s how this developed.” (Read Full Interview)

EEGs of participants with bad chemistry show they work harder to answer the same questions as the others. Bad means their spinal fluid shows changes in beta amyloid and tau levels.

Dr. Harrington said, “If we can show that it’s got the rigor to do an equivalent detection, you wouldn’t need to have a spinal tap. You wouldn’t need expensive PET imaging.”

Snyder sees even more potential.

“I think it’s terribly important because then it might be easier to do something, if not to prevent it, then at least slow it down,” said Snyder.

She said Frank would have approved.

This study is six months old and only has six participants so far. Dr. Harrington plans to add many more people and to follow them for years. His only restraint is finding more funding.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Wendy Chioji, Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; Rusty Reed, Videographer.




TOPIC:       Brain Challenge Test to Predict Alzheimer’s Twenty Years Early

REPORT:   MB #4194

 BACKGROUND: Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia. It affects the parts of the brain involved in thought, memory, and language. While it may begin with mild memory loss, it can progress to the point of inhibiting one’s ability to have a conversation or respond to their environment. Alzheimer’s is not very common among people younger than 60, but the number of people with the disease doubles every five years beyond the age of 65. Age and family history are the best known risk factors of Alzheimer’s. There has also been evidence to suggest that high blood pressure, high cholesterol and low levels of vitamin folate may increase risk while physical, mental and social activity may decrease risk.


 SYMPTOMS: There are several symptoms that can be associated with the beginnings of the disease. They include:

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  • Confusion with time or place
  • New problems with words in speaking or writing
  • Changes in mood or personality
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities

Exhibiting even several of these symptoms does not mean one has Alzheimer’s. It is important to consult a healthcare provider with concerns about memory loss or cognitive abilities.


NEW TECHNOLOGY: Now researchers at Huntington Medical Research Institutes are testing whether a simple brain challenge and EEG could predict Alzheimer’s 20 years before symptoms show up. The brain challenge finds Alzheimer’s biomarkers, such as changes in beta-amyloid and tau levels. The challenge also shows that in participants with changes in these levels, their brains had to work harder to answer the same questions than those without those changes. To participate in this study you must be between the ages of 70 and 90, not on anticoagulant medication, able to donate blood, urine and spinal fluid and able to undergo an MRI.

(Source: Huntington Medical Research Institutes)


Betty Chung



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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Michael Harrington, M.D., Director of Neurosciences

Read the entire Q&A