Brain Health

Ray Of Light Detects Alzheimer’s Disease

Ray Of Light Detects Alzheimer’s Disease about undefined
Subtle changes in an everyday activity may signal Alzheimer’s is around the corner for you or a loved one. Unfortunately, these changes are too small to be picked up by the human eye, but they can be detected by a light sensor. This sensor isn’t directed at your brain, but your body. It’s attached to the ceiling, the wall, or to furniture in your home and measures changes in the way you walk. As we’ve reported in this newsletter before, specific changes in a person’s manner of walking or gait are strongly linked to cognitive decline. As the decline worsens, so do gait abnormalities. This is well established from large population studies and clinical trials of older people with and without dementia. More importantly, these gait pattern changes take place very early in some neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. But up until now, accurately measuring them has been easier said than done.

Current Gait Measurement Devices Lack Accuracy

Technologies already exist that successfully measure different gait parameters, but all have significant downsides. For example, wearable devices may be incorrectly applied or obstruct natural movement, and patients, especially the elderly, may forget to wear them. Non-wearable devices involve cameras or floor sensors which are very costly and don’t provide a high enough degree of accuracy.

Is there a solution? A research group at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden claim they’ve developed one.

New Radar Light Sensor Measures Step Time

Their new method uses a small radar light sensor to acquire real-time, high-resolution readings of a person’s walking pattern, especially the time required to take a step. Dr. Xuezhi Zeng, one of its developers, explains more, saying, “With the help of a millimeter wave radar, we can measure important parameters with high accuracy. What we measure is the step time – the time it takes from the first step to the next and so on. It is variation in the step time that matters.” Their tests show this new device has excellent reliability for step time measurement, with an average accuracy rate of 96 percent. With Alzheimer’s and other cognitive illnesses, an increase in step time variability is an early symptom of the disease that worsens as the disease worsens. The researchers believe that their new device could be beneficial as an aid to not only making an early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, but over time can contribute to preventive measures and an improved quality of life for patients.

How Does It Work?

The research group wrote in the journal Sensors last December that millimeter-wave radar, as distinct from other wavelengths such as microwave radar, is more capable of capturing instantaneous gait features. They concluded their paper by writing: “These promising results suggest that this type of radar has good potential for the timely detection of discrete and subtle gait changes that appear at the early stage of cognitive disorders at home, enabling the prediction and prevention of cognitive diseases and fall accidents for the elderly.” Dr. Zeng states that in healthcare facilities the precise real-time data generated can help professionals perform a more reliable risk analysis and tailor interventions. It can also be used in people’s homes. He believes it will be accepted because it’s no bigger than a fire alarm, is easy to use, and collects data without video filming, that could be an invasion of privacy. “This means that it can be used without invading people’s privacy and integrity, and without the feeling of monitoring that something such as a camera would give,” says Dr. Zeng. But it’s only the beginning…

Can Work Double Time For Fall Prevention

In addition, gait abnormalities also predict a person’s likelihood of falling. Three million elderly people seek care in an emergency department due to fall accidents each year in the U.S. Falls often have serious physical and psychological consequences and may even cause death. The gait change data gathered by the radar light sensor could provide an early warning sign of trouble ahead, with the potential to prevent dangerous falls. Healthcare providers could use this data to suggest preventive measures such as physiotherapy and advice on diet, lifestyle, supplements, as well as other strategies to prevent or delay cognitive decline. While it’s not on the market for the public to purchase just yet, the scientists hope it will be available in the not-too-distant future. Best Regards, The Awakening From Alzheimer’s Team  

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