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Vision problems may indicate the development of dementia 12 years before diagnosis

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Vision problems may indicate the development of dementia 12 years before diagnosis

Eye problems can be one of the first signs of cognitive decline, a recent study has found. Researchers from Loughborough University have discovered that a loss of visual sensitivity can predict dementia up to 12 years before it is diagnosed. The study, which included 8,623 healthy participants in Norfolk, England, found that visual disturbances may indicate early stages of cognitive decline.

Toxic amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease are believed to first affect areas of the brain related to vision before affecting memory-related areas. This explains why vision tests may be able to detect deficits before memory tests. People with Alzheimer’s often experience difficulties with contrast sensitivity, color discrimination, and inhibitory control of eye movements.

Face recognition is also affected in early stages of Alzheimer’s, as individuals may struggle to process new faces accurately. This could be due to ineffective eye movements when scanning faces, rather than a pure memory impairment. Researchers are currently investigating whether improving eye movements can help enhance memory performance.

Despite these promising findings, not much has been done to treat memory problems using intentional eye movements in older individuals. The use of eye movement deficits as a diagnostic tool for early-stage Alzheimer’s is not commonly practiced, mainly due to the cost and complexity of eye-tracking technologies. Until more accessible eye trackers become available, using eye movements for early Alzheimer’s diagnosis may remain limited to laboratory settings.

As World Alzheimer’s Disease Day approaches on September 21st, it is essential to continue exploring innovative therapeutic approaches and drugs to improve prevention and quality of life for individuals with dementia. By understanding the early signs of cognitive decline, such as visual disturbances, researchers hope to develop more effective interventions to support those at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

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