Multi-Tasking Troubles: Another Early Alzheimer’s Symptom

November 10, 2009 at 1:58 pm Leave a comment

Based on Maze Image by gerard79 on Stock Xchng Recently, I’ve written about how problems with money management and visual & spatial skills can be very early indicators of the onset of Alzheimer’s. Another new study ads multi-tasking troubles to the list.

At the University of Edinburgh, a team of researchers have found that Alzheimer’s patients perform significantly poorly on tests of simultaneous tasks.   The 89 participants in the study were divided into three groups – healthy older adults, Alzheimer’s patients, and adults with chronic depression (a condition which early stages of Alzheimer’s can sometimes mimic, causing a misdiagnosis).

All three groups were given tasks that required them to perform complex multitasking that use different areas of the brain –  things like repeating a list of numbers, while tracing a path through a maze with a pencil.

When the results from the three groups were compared,  the Alzheimer’s patients performed far more poorly than either the healthy or depressed patients, suggesting a similar test might be used as a diagnostic aid.

The study is especially significant because it  distinguishes between early symptoms of Alzheimer’s and the effects of depression, which can share many of the same symptoms: memory problems, decreased attention, poor appetite, loss of initiative and interest in life.    As a result,  the early stages of Alzheimer’s and other dementias are often misdiagnosed, missing crucial windows of opportunity  for  slowing the progress of the disease, and planning for the  future.

The dual tasking, money management and visual & spatial skills tests are all non-intrusive, inexpensive and present no risk to patients, making them very useful diagnostic tools, and helping to identify patients at the earliest opportunity – a big step in the right direction for treatment of Alzheimer’s.

The results of these studies also seem to suggest specialized areas to target with brain-training in Alzheimer’s patients;  software programs and brain training systems typically include exercises that might improve the function of these skills in patients, perhaps delaying some of the symptoms.

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Entry filed under: Be Mentally Active, Supporting Science & Medicine. Tags: , , , , .

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A healthy mind and brain is key to a healthy, active life. Come along for the ride as we explore the basics of brain health, with topics including:
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Authored by Tori Deaux
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