When it comes to early signs of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, most people look to memory loss as the earliest indicator of the disease. However, recent studies have shown that there is a different symptom that appears long before the onset of memory loss. Many scientists now believe that the earliest sign of Alzheimer’s is problems with navigation, and this symptom may appear long before a possible diagnosis of the disease.
According to the Huffington Post, patients involved in the study used a computer program to attempt to navigate through a virtual maze in which they used patterns and landmarks to solve. Those with preclinical Alzheimer’s, which refers to patients who are not diagnosed but show early signs of the disease, struggled significantly with navigating and learning the maze.
This study suggests that doctors may be able to detect initial stages of the disease by assessing difficulties with patients’ navigational skills and their ability to assess and understand new surroundings. These problems with navigation may manifest themselves in two ways, “learning an established route and in finding their own way to new landmarks.”
While this study has been eye opening to doctors studying Alzheimer’s disease, they still need further research and more experiments before this discovery can be applied to diagnosing the disease. However, hopefully, this an indication that in the near future, doctors will be able to diagnose and begin treating Alzheimer’s much sooner in patients with early symptoms.