Five-minute neck scan seems to detect dementia much earlier, research shows

Researchers have shown that early dementia signs could be detected by a simple short scan of the individual’s neck. The actual dementia symptoms could be seen up to 10 years after these signs are visible on the scans they add. If proven robust for all cases, this test could soon become routine for screening middle aged individuals and classifying them as high risk for dementia later in life, according to News Medical.

The researchers at the University College London (UCL) looked at the strength of a pulse travelling to the brain via the neck from the heart. The intensity of this pulse from the heart to different parts of the body often varies. The large blood vessels are normally elastic and they absorb the major pulse intensity from the heart due to their wall elasticity. This leads to diminishing the pulse intensity that travels to the brain and thus it prevents damage to the delicate and thin blood vessels of the brain, the team explains.

As a person ages, the wall elasticity of the arteries is lost and they become rigid. This means that the full intensity of the heart beat pulse reaches the brain via the stiffened arteries. This can damage the smaller and more delicate brain blood vessels which could eventually cause damage to the brain and its tissues leading to dementia. There are mini-strokes as these delicate blood vessels are damaged and they form new networks and undergo structural changes. These changes are all contributory to dementias, the authors explain.

For this study the team looked at around 3,200 middle-aged participants who were followed for an average of 15 years to see if they were at high risk of dementia. They underwent an ultrasound test of the neck in 2002 to see if their pulse intensity to the brain. In addition memory functions and problem solving tests were also conducted on these participants at baseline. Results showed that those who had the highest pulse intensity were 50 percent more likely to show an accelerated or rapidly progressing decline in cognitive abilities over the following 10 years compared to those who had a lower intensity. The team adjusted their results for other factors that may influence dementia risks such as age, blood pressure, obesity, presence of diabetes and other heart diseases.

Read the full story at News Medical.

Topics: Alzheimer's/Dementia , Uncategorized