Brain May Reveal Early Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease During Test Driving

Driving Patterns Could Help in The Detection of a Lot of Information on The Health of an Individual

The pattern of driving of every individual tends to change as they age further. But for certain people, a subtle number of differences tends to emerge in the way they control a motor vehicle, which according to scientists says that they are in association with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

In a research experiment which was conducted to find out if the differences in driving would be monitored through location-tracking devices based on Global Positioning System, while a group of people aged over 65 years in the city of Missouri in the United States gave their consent to allow the research-based experiment to closely monitor their driving for an entire year.

Detection of Alzheimer’s through driving

The scientists working on this research were looking to find out that by just being able to thoroughly study the habits of driving of the sample group only would be able to reveal the initiation of Alzheimer’s disease and would not require any expensive or invasive medical procedure to be conducted on the patients.

After being able to collect the sample group data for a complete time period comprising of 365 days, the researchers became confident that it would be able to diagnose early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.

Among the 139 individuals that were directly involved in the research study, a previously conducted medical examination has been able to reveal that around half of them all have signs of a preclinical or initial stage of Alzheimer’s disease, while the other half of the sample group does not have it. The analytic report, including the comparison of driving habits between both groups, has shown detectable differences.

There have been some significant differences between both groups, including that the individuals affected with preclinical Alzheimer’s disease tend to drive slow, generally make abrupt changes, travel more during the day and less at night, and have logged fewer travel miles in the overall time duration. These people were also able to visit a small variety of destined locations while driving and stuck to some of the slightly confined travel routes.

Sayeh Bayat, a Ph.D. candidate in the University of Toronto, who was leading the research study, said that the way by which people tend to move in their daily routine and environment, ranging from the locations they tend to visit more often and the way they drive, gives a lot of information regarding their mental health.

The GPS tracking devices which were installed in the cars of the participants of the research study have revealed the movements, along with their occurrence in detail.

Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease

The researching scientists that are running this study had previously divided the participants based on their preclinical Alzheimer’s medical diagnosis without conducted diagnostic tests, including spinal tap and positron emission tomography scans (PET scan).

Although by utilizing the data collected through the driving, the researchers were able to design a working model that would help in forecasting the likelihood of an individual to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or having preclinical Alzheimer’s by only requiring their age and the driving data through GPS.

Sayeh Bayat said that by using these few indicators, she is confident that they would be able to identify whether an individual is suffering from preclinical Alzheimer’s or not.

The model was able to provide results with more accuracy (around 90%) when they also added the genetic test to diagnose Alzheimer’s, which is known as apolipoprotein E (APOE) genotyping, which helps in the indication of the genetic predisposition of the disease in the individual. Although it has been noted that all individuals with a familial predisposition towards Alzheimer’s do not develop the disease. Meanwhile, the prediction, which is based on age and driving habits, is almost accurate and precise.

To be able to show a definitive link between the behaviors during driving and preclinical Alzheimer’s disease, more randomized clinical trials are required to be conducted.

However, the game-changing potential is that this would be a very cost-efficient way for the detection of Alzheimer’s condition at a very initial stage, which would help in supporting rapid treatment. But questions would be raised as to whether older people would want their regular driving behavior to be closely monitored, even if it is beneficial for their own health. Although, family members would also help to notice early symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

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