EEG Works at Spotting Early Alzheimer's

WEDNESDAY, May 9 (HealthDay News) -- Electroencephalogram (EEG), an 80-year-old technology that measures brain activity, offers a highly accurate means of diagnosing early Alzheimer's disease, a team of U.S. researchers report.

The new study was conducted by scientists at Rowan University in New Jersey, the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and Drexel University.

Their tests on 71 patients found EEG to be 82 percent to 85 percent accurate in diagnosing early Alzheimer's disease. While this does not match the 90 percent accuracy achieved by "gold standard" tests administered at world-class medical centers, it's better than the accuracy (about 75 percent) achieved at community hospitals and clinics, the researchers noted.

"Currently, the state-of-the-art evaluation for Alzheimer's disease is only available to those who have geographic proximity and/or financial ability to access research hospitals, where expert neuropsychologists continually interview patients and caregivers over six to 12 months to make a diagnosis," principal investigator Dr. Robi Polikar said in a prepared statement.

"But most people don't have access to such facilities and instead go to community clinics and hospitals. Our methodology involves just one 'snapshot' that in itself is highly accurate and will be especially beneficial in these locations," said Polikar, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rowan.

"Individuals in the earliest stages of Alzheimer's disease are often not aware of their progressing memory loss, and family members often believe that changes are simply due to aging," fellow researcher Dr. Christopher Clark, an associate professor of neurology, and associate professor of the Alzheimer's Disease Center at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a prepared statement.

"Even the patient's personal physician may be reluctant to initiate an evaluation until a considerable degree of brain failure has occurred. The advantage of using a modified EEG to detect these early changes is that it is noninvasive, simple to do, can be repeated when necessary, and can be done in a physician's office. This makes it an ideal method to screen elderly individuals for the earliest indication of this common scourge of late life," Clark said.

The research has been presented at several engineering and medical conferences. Different aspects of the research were scheduled to be published in the April issue of Computers in Biology and Medicine and in an upcoming issue of Information Fusion.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Rowan University, news release, April 2007

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