A new method can predict a person’s risk of cognitive decline based on how well they balance
Physical balance does not appear to be related to cognitive function. But researchers from Japan have recently succeeded in developing a new method to predict cognitive problems based on body balance, reports Neuroscience News, citing PMC Geriatrics.
Researchers at the University of Tsukuba have revealed a new physical balance that could help identify individuals at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
MCI is a clinical condition characterized by subtle changes in cognitive ability. Because individuals with this condition are at increased risk of progressing to Alzheimer’s disease, early detection of MCI can guide clinical interventions that prevent the condition from worsening.
It has long been understood that balance problems occur in individuals with a high frequency of falls in Alzheimer’s disease and are caused by changes in vestibular function, which is responsible for the sense of balance and spatial direction.
Additionally, individuals can be screened for MCI before symptoms appear by detecting problems with balance. Currently, there are few options for effective homeostasis screening in the general population, a problem researchers at the University of Tsukuba aim to solve.
Early interventions for prevention
“Early interventions are essential to prevent Alzheimer’s disease,” said the study’s principal investigator, Professor Naoya Yahaki. “Since changes in vestibular function are associated with both MCI and Alzheimer’s disease, the study aims to develop a new method to effectively assess these changes in the general population.”
A new evaluation method
Researchers developed a new method to assess balance and vestibular function using a Nintendo Wii foam rubber balance board.
This measure was called the Visual Dependency Index (VPS) of stability. Healthy volunteer participants aged 56–75 years, without significant cognitive impairment, successfully completed tests of the VPS Index and measures of cognitive function.
“The results were surprising,” explains Professor Yahagi. “VPS scores were found to be significantly associated with cognitive impairment, as assessed using the Montreal Cognitive Assessment Index, a commonly used tool for examining cognitive ability.”
Furthermore, the scale had relatively high sensitivity and specificity, indicating that it was successful in easily capturing important clues to indicate whether a person is at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
New treatment options
Professor Yahagi says the new method is a cheap and accessible way to detect cognitive impairment in the general population. Therefore
Early and accurate diagnosis of MCI may lead to new treatment options that may significantly improve outcomes for individuals with neurodegenerative conditions.
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