Psychiatrists Can Predict Onset of Alzheimer’s with New EEG Test
March 1, 2006 — Using new computer software that analyzes EEG data, psychiatrists can now better distinguish early signs of Alzheimer’s from normal aging, by spotting marked differences between the left and right sides of the brain. Diagnosing Alzheimer’s early can be vital because new drugs can now slow the progression the disease. The new technique is cheaper and less invasive than using MRIs or PET scans for the same diagnosis.
NEW YORK CITY–Alzheimer’s is a devastating illness affecting 4 million Americans and their families. Would you want to know if Alzheimer’s is in your future? Now, a new twist to a common and inexpensive test may tell relatives if they, too, will suffer from the mind-altering disease.Beth Cenicola’s and her sister Dianne Burke’s mother has Alzheimer’s. They remember her as someone who loved to go places and do things. At 94, however, their mother has been battling Alzheimer’s for eight years. “The hardest part is seeing your mother and knowing that she doesn’t know who you are,” Beth says.
Both sisters are getting a basic EEG scan as part of a new test that will predict if Alzheimer’s is in their futures.
Leslie Prichep, an associate director of the Brain Research Laboratories of the Department of Psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine, says, “Going from the squiggly lines to a description of those events, we are then comparing those numbers to the expected numbers for the age of the individual.”
Using new computer software that converts the EEG scan into numbers, psychiatrists can more easily determine normal aging vs. early signs of dementia. For instance, the left EEG shows the left and right sides of the brain are normal size, shape and similar between regions, suggesting no dementia. The right EEG, however, shows big differences between left and right sides — indicating signs of future dementia. Prichep says this is significant, because there are now drugs that show to be very useful in stopping and slowing the progression of dementia.
Beth says she is getting the test done because she doesn’t want her children to go through what they are going through. She wants a chance to change the future.
Currently, MRIs and PET scans can also detect future dementia, but they are much more invasive and expensive. The seven-year NYU study revealed the program is 95 percent accurate in predicting decline.
Researchers are expanding their study, running the new program through its database of thousands of elderly patients’ records.