Home Tech Smartphone app could help detect early-onset dementia cause, study finds

Smartphone app could help detect early-onset dementia cause, study finds

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Smartphone app could help detect early-onset dementia cause, study finds

A smartphone app could help identify a leading cause of early-onset dementia in people at high risk of developing it, data suggests.

Scientists have shown that cognitive tests administered through a smartphone app are at least as sensitive at detecting early signs of frontotemporal dementia in people with a genetic predisposition to the condition as medical evaluations performed in clinics.

Frontotemporal dementia is a neurological condition that often manifests in middle age, in which the part of the brain responsible for skills such as the ability to plan ahead and prioritize tasks, filter distractions and control impulses shrinks as the disease progresses. progresses.

About a third of such cases have a genetic cause, but research into the condition has been hampered by problems with early diagnosis and difficulties in monitoring how people respond to treatments that may only be effective during the early stages of the disease.

“Most patients with frontotemporal dementia are diagnosed relatively late in the disease, because they are young, and their symptoms are mistaken for psychiatric disorders,” says senior author of the study, Prof. Adam Boxer, from the University of California, San Francisco .

Smartphones are already gaining interest as a tool for diagnosing and assessing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases. To investigate its usefulness in frontotemporal dementia, Boxer and his colleagues worked with US software company Datacubed Health to develop an app that could record people’s speech as they underwent various cognitive tests, including assessments of executive functioning.

“We also created tests for gait, balance and slowed movements, as well as various aspects of language,” said Dr. Adam Staffaroni, a clinical neuropsychologist at the University of California, San Francisco, and the study’s first author.

They tested the app in 360 adults with a high genetic risk of developing frontotemporal dementia, including some who had not yet developed obvious symptoms.

The research, published in JAMA network openedfound that the app could accurately detect dementia in such individuals and could even be more sensitive to the earliest stages of the condition than gold-standard neuropsychological evaluations commonly performed in clinics.

While there are no immediate plans to make the app available to the public, Staffaroni said it could aid research into the condition.

More than 30 such clinical trials are underway or in the planning stages, including studies of therapies that could help slow disease progression in some gene carriers. “A major barrier is the lack of outcome measures that can be easily collected and that are sensitive to treatment effects in early stages of the disease.”

Frequent in-person assessments are also burdensome for patients, caregivers and physicians. “We hope that smartphone reviews will facilitate new trials of promising therapies,” Staffaroni said.

“Ultimately, the app could be used to monitor the effects of treatment, replacing many or most in-person visits to clinical trial sites.”

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