A provocative new study suggests a method to detect early onset of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s may be to simply observe the time a senior spends on the computer. If computer habits become infrequent, this may suggest impending cognitive issues.
In the study, researchers from Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) discovered a significant correlation between infrequent daily computer use and brain imaging signs commonly seen in early-stage Alzheimer’s patients.
Researchers used MRI scans to measure the volume of the hippocampus — a brain region integral to memory function — in adults aged 65 years and older who were cognitively intact and dementia-free.
Prior studies have determined that diminished hippocampal volume is a well-known sign, or biomarker, of Alzheimer’s disease and the eventual development of dementia.
In the study, found online in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers found that an additional hour of computer use a day was associated with a .025 percent larger hippocampal volume.
Lisa Silbert, M.D., the study leader, explains that a smaller hippocampal volume is an indicator of increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease.
She and her team will continue to follow these participants to see if their smaller hippocampal volume and decreased computer use predict future cognitive decline.
Silbert and colleagues hypothesize that the reason patients with smaller hippocampal volumes may spend less time using their home computer is because it requires the use of multiple cognitive domains; that is, executive function, attention, and memory.
The researchers have been following a group of volunteers in Portland for nine years through a suite of embedded technology in their homes.
These tools allow the researchers to assess their mobility, sleep, socialization, computer use, and medication intake. The purpose of this monitoring is to identify meaningful changes in everyday life that don’t involve the participants taking tests or going to doctor appointments.
Source: IOS Press