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What part does technology play in identifying Alzheimer’s and helping manage the disease

While physicians can determine whether a person has dementia, it’s often very difficult to establish the exact cause. Diagnosing Alzheimer’s requires careful and detailed medical evaluation and can only currently be definitively diagnosed after death.

It’s extremely difficult to diagnose Alzheimer’s because it’s such a complex disease. We know the disease begins to damage the brain years before the first symptoms appear. Scientists are therefore furiously searching for a way of detecting the devastating disorder in those very early stages, in the hope that prompt treatment might slow its progression and perhaps someday, with new treatments, stop it altogether.

Some researchers are using advanced imaging techniques to try to pick up protein accumulations in the brain. Others are looking for biomarkers of the disease in cerebrospinal fluid–obtained with a spinal tap and in blood.

Neuroimaging or brain imaging is the use of various techniques to either directly or indirectly image the structure, function/pharmacology of the nervous system. It’s a relatively new discipline within medicine, neuroscience, and psychology.

 

Brain-imaging technologies include: 

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
An MRI uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to produce detailed images of your brain. MRIs are used to rule out other conditions that may account for or be adding to cognitive symptoms. In addition, they may be used to assess whether shrinkage in brain regions implicated in Alzheimer’s disease has occurred.

 

Computerized tomography (CT)
A CT scan produces cross-sectional images (slices) of your brain. It’s currently used chiefly to rule out tumours, strokes and head injuries.

 

Positron emission tomography (PET)
During a PET scan, you’ll be injected in a vein with a low-level radioactive tracer. The tracer may be a special form of glucose (sugar) that shows overall activity in various brain regions.

This can show which parts of your brain aren’t functioning well. New PET techniques are able to detect your brain level of plaques (amyloid) and tangles (tau), the two hallmark abnormalities linked to Alzheimer’s. However, these new PET techniques are generally found in research settings or in clinical trials.

 

Cerebrospinal fluid
In special circumstances such as rapidly progressive dementia or very young onset dementia, a cerebrospinal fluid examination may be performed. The spinal fluid can be tested for biomarkers that indicate the likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease.

 

What assistive technology is available for someone with dementia?
There are many different technologies that can be adapted to the needs of someone with dementia. Some pieces of assistive technology have been designed specifically for people with the condition. Here are a few products that could make a sufferer’s day that bit easier.

 

Memory Picture Phone
This visual phone is helpful for those who may have difficulty remembering phone numbers, or who may find dialing multiple numbers too difficult. The phone holds up to 10 numbers which can be personalised with photos of each person that gets programmed into the phone.

 

Joy for All Companion Pets
These adorable animatronic, cuddly, purring cats are a great way to share meaningful two-way interaction with a loved one. The responsive cats purr, meow and even roll over for belly rubs. The built-in sensors respond to touch and movement mimicking the responses of a real-life friendly cat. All of the fun without the hassle of cleaning a litter box!

 

Day Clock
The Day clock is a cost-effective solution to help people living with dementia to maintain their daily routine. It features a simple and clear display showing the time of day as either morning, afternoon, evening or night.

 

Talking Photo Album
This is a really useful product which encourages independence. The albums are ideal for people with a visual impairment, Alzheimer’s or Dementia. Each page holds a photo and you are able to record a message (detailing who is in the picture and something about that specific memory for example) for each photo. Each page has a play and stop button and you can.

 

You can browse a whole range of Alzheimer Friendly gifts here

 

 

Posted 29th June 2018

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