Newsbriefs: AD Blood Test; Insufficient Sleep; Dementia & Sense of Smell

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New Blood Test May Help Improve Accuracy of Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) can be a difficult condition to diagnose, because its symptoms can resemble other types of neurodegenerative disorders. In a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences researchers developed a blood test that may help make an AD diagnosis more accurate. The test involves sensor-based technology with a diamond core. Researchers used the technology to test 550 blood samples. By passing a light through the diamond and observing its interactions with compounds in the blood plasma, the researchers could identify specific chemical bonds in the blood. The biochemical information obtained from these samples was compared to that of samples from people with AD and other neurogenerative conditions. One of the most encouraging developments from the study was that researchers were able to accurately distinguish between AD and dementia with Lewy bodies. These conditions present similar symptoms, but are sometimes diagnosed incorrectly. By accurately diagnosing AD early on, doctors may be able to start a person on a treatment plan before the disease has progressed too far. Researchers also believe this test could one day be used to monitor how AD is progressing.

Insufficient Sleep Makes It Harder to Be Positive-Minded

You know that too little sleep can sometimes make it harder to concentrate and to find the energy necessary to get through the day. And according to recent research published in the journal Depression and Anxiety, poor sleep may also make it more difficult for people experiencing depression or anxiety to shake off negative feelings. Researchers focused on a part of the brain associated with regulating negative mood responses. It’s called the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, and it was one of several parts of the brain studied with functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In the study, participants (all of whom had been diagnosed with a major depressive disorder, an anxiety disorder or both) were showed disturbing or unpleasant images from wartime or accidents while the MRI was ongoing. The researchers wanted to study how the brain reacted as the participants processed the images and tried to regulate their responses. Later, the participants filled out questionnaires that included information about their sleep during the previous month, among other topics. The researchers found that participants who reported poor sleep had much less activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. The research suggests that people who have depression and/or anxiety will have a harder time trying to keep a positive outlook if they are having difficulty sleeping. Addressing sleep problems should be a priority for people struggling with these mood disorders. Even if you aren’t experiencing any symptoms of depression or anxiety, getting enough sleep is important to help protect against mood disorders.

New Study Suggests Losing Sense of Smell May Predict Dementia

A test of how well you can identify certain scents may also indicate your likelihood of developing dementia, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (Sept. 22, 2017). A study of nearly 3,000 adults, aged 57 to 85, found that people who could not identify four out of five common odors were twice as likely as those with a normal sense of smell to develop dementia within the next five years. Most of the study participants (78 percent) could identify at least four out of the five smells correctly. Almost half could identify all five smells. Five years later, almost all of the participants who couldn’t identify one smell correctly had dementia. Researchers say this study reinforces a well-established connection between olfactory senses and brain function. But they add that that any loss of sensory function may be an early sign of growing dementia risk. Other studies have identified a reduced sense of smell as an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. The researchers hope that by identifying people at an earlier stage of cognitive decline, doctors can offer more effective treatments and earlier interventions. Also, losing a sense of smell can have an impact on quality of life and health. Without a sense of smell, you enjoy food less, which can lead to eating less and eventually to malnutrition and associated health declines.

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