Researchers at the University of York, UK and the University of Oviedo, Spain have found that recognizing and understanding words can be key to diagnosing early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
For their study, the results of which are to be published in the Journal of Neuropsychology, the researchers showed participants between the ages of 61 and 91 groups of words on a computer screen. Some were real words like "eagle," and some were invented words like "slint." Members of a cognitively healthy control group had little trouble picking out the real words. But those with Alzheimer’s disease missed about one in five of the real words.
In addition, those with Alzheimer’s also recognized:
- common words better than less common words
- words with concrete meanings better than words with abstract meanings
- words learned early in life better than words learned in later childhood or adulthood.
“Alzheimer’s disease isn’t easy to diagnose in the early stages,” said Professor Andrew Ellis, from the Department of Psychology at York, in a press release. “There are other forms of dementia that are relatively common and it can be hard to distinguish between them in the early stages. A word recognition test based on these findings could contribute to diagnosis, but more work would need to be done.”