London, Nov 12 (ANI): Diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease decades before symptoms appear would soon be possible, courtesy a 30-second test being developed by scientists.
The simple procedure, which detects the signs of Alzheimer's in those in their 40s, brings the hope of routine screening for dementia in as little as two years.
Those found to have a tiny piece of tell-tale damage to their brains could take preventative measures such as changing their diet and taking more exercise.
Quicker detection would allow earlier treatment and, with the help of new drugs, some who test positive might never develop the disease.
"The study lays open the possibilities for screening, early detection and intervention. The earlier we can intervene with people vulnerable to eventual dementia, the greater the chances of preventing or delaying the disease onset," the Daily Mail quoted David Bunce, lead researcher, as saying.
Experts said that delaying the onset of Alzheimer's by five years could halve the number of people who die with the condition, currently a third of over-65s.
At the moment, diagnosis is based on memory tests or expensive brain scans.
By contrast, the computer procedure, based on a simple test of reaction times, would be quick and easy.
Bunce, of Brunel University, used brain scans to find tiny lesions, each smaller than a grain of rice, in the white matter of apparently healthy men and women aged 44 to 48.
Around 15 per cent of the 428 tested had the abnormalities, which occurred in the brain's memory hub.
Although the research did not show that these people went on to develop dementia, the lesions were similar to those discovered in post-mortem examinations of Alzheimer's patients - and were found in the same part of the brain.
The professor saw that those with the brain lesions performed more erratically in a test of reaction times, which involved watching for one of two lights on a screen and hitting a corresponding button.
Those with lesions had a mixture of slow and fast reaction times, whereas those with healthy brains had either consistently fast or slow responses.
The findings were reported in the journal PLoS ONE. (ANI)