Toronto – Disappearing memory is not the earliest sign of Alzheimer’s. The disease could be detected at its earliest stage by being aware of mood and personality changes of the patient, according to a new research.

A group of researchers, led by Dr. Zahinoor Ismail, a neuropsychiatrist at the University of Calgary proposed Sunday at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Toronto a new way to diagnose Alzheimer’s. The Mild Behavioral Impairment (MBI), as they named it, may help identify people who could be at risk of suffering Alzheimer’s with a 38-question checklist.

According to a recent study, Alzheimer’s could be detected at its earliest stage by being aware of mood and personality changes of the patient. Credit: New Scientist

In most cases, dementia could be preceded by changes in mood and behavior, although specialists often overlook this and point it out as normal aging behavior. Based on that, researchers proposed MBI, a syndrome similar to Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). The MBI focuses on behavior changes that may precede or occur at the same time of development of cognitive symptoms and memory problems of dementia.

Patients with MCI and changes in behavior may develop dementia faster

Studies show that people who have mild cognitive impairment along with emotional changes develop full dementia in a faster way. They also suffer more brain damage than other Alzheimer’s patients.

However, mood changes in aging people are not always an early sign of dementia. Behavioral changes should be significant and have lasted at least six months to be considered MBI, Dr. Ismail stated, according to the New York Times.

He proposed a questionnaire with 38 items divided into five groups for doctors to use in patients. The first group aims to detect “decreased motivation,” based on apathy and lack of interest as a common symptom, with questions such as “Does he/she no longer care about anything?”

Another group focuses on emotional symptoms, with questions like “Has the person become agitated, aggressive, irritable, or temperamental?” The third group looks for problems in social interactions, like lack of empathy for others.

The fourth group of questions should show if the person has developed problems with impulse control, obsession over an activity in particular or and acquired new habit. The last group looks for evidence of issues in perception, with the person suffering even from hallucinations.

Specialists argue that the ambiguous diagnose could end up harming and generating worries among people of developing Alzheimer’s while they are not in an actual risk, just as early diagnosis of MCI.

“The flip side is overdiagnosis, labeling someone and getting people in the clinical cascade, where you start doing the test and people start doing more brain imaging and being at the doctor’s more and getting more concerned,” Dr. Kenneth Langa, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan said, according to the New York Times.

Other Alzheimer’s experts support the proposal as a helpful tool to diagnose Alzheimer’s in the early stages, although it still needs to be tested and studied further.

Source: The New York Times