Can a Test in Teens Predict the Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Can a Test in Teens Predict the Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease?

In 1960, almost 400,000 students in the United States took an aptitude test. Today, the experts say that the result of that test can predict the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Experts compared the performance of the students in that test with the medical data of today. The study also highlighted the fact that there are early predictors for such mental diseases.

Students who performed better at the test had a lower risk of developing the disease. On the other hand, those who did poorly had increased odds.

The concept that your overall cognitive ability is linked with the risk of Alzheimer’s disease is not new. This study is, however, novel, because it looks at specific attributes tested to see how they affect the risk.

This study is present in the JAMA Network Open. It included an extremely diverse sample of participants. These participants were a part of the original test known as Project Talent.

There were 43,014 men and almost 42749 women in the study. The ages of the participants were somewhere between 66 and 73 years.

Similar studies exist on the topic such as those by Gordon. Other examples include the one cited by researchers is the Scottish Mental Health Survey. As per this survey, the lower mental ability in kids of age 11 increased the risk of dementia.

Differences between Women and Men

The new study goes deep by exploring the specific testing criteria. It investigated how different types of knowledge associated with the risk of these diseases.

Can a Test in Teens Predict the Risk of Alzheimer's Disease?

The areas of cognitive abilities tested in the study included:

  • Memory for words
  • Creativity
  • Clerical tasks
  • Mechanical reasoning
  • Reading comprehension
  • Abstract reasoning
  • Visualization in three dimensions

There was a lot of crossovers yet, the researchers identified different areas based on genders. These areas could be used for identification of greatest risks.

What did the Areas Suggest?

In men, low scores in mechanical reasoning led to a 17 percent increase in the risk. The section of mechanical reasoning included questions related to physical forces like gravity. It also contained questions about basic mechanisms like wheels, pulleys, and springs.

In the case of women, verbal tasks like memory for words were more important. Females scoring low in these sections had a 16 percent increased risk.

Experts believe that women normally have better verbal abilities as compared to men. If they start off with poor verbal abilities when they are young, this may be problematic. As they get older, the specific area weakens and becomes more apparent in testing.

However, experts urge caution into forming any conclusions about the test. More research is essential before declaring its ability to predict dementia and Alzheimer’s in later life.

Some experts believe that this can be misconducted quite easily.

RELATED: How Can Tea Help Lower the Risk of Alzheimer’s?

There is a prominent gap between the testing phase and the collection of medical data. This means that there are a lot of other factors at work during this time. Education level, health status, socioeconomic condition, and lifestyle play role in it. These factors can easily manipulate the risk of developing these mental states.

Experts are not ready to have the takeaway that it is fait accompli. This means that they do not believe that it is something that is unnecessarily unmodifiable.

Some Experts largely praised this study for having a robust cohort. At the same time, they raised the issue with the use of Medicare data in the study.

The researchers did not actually go back and looked if the participants had this disease. They just correlated it with the Medicare data. Therefore, it may not be reflective of the actual number of patients having the disease.

Can Early Intervention Help?

The final question that the experts raised in this study was how to use this information. If the test is able to accurately predict the risk in children, how can you stop it?

The authors suggested that the at-risk individuals can benefit from prevention or intervention efforts. However, what this really means tends to be unclear.

The scientists do not know if there is a particular intervention to mitigate the risk. No one knows whether you should directly target a factor educational attainment. It is also not clear that by doing so will it interact with other risk factors or not.

What is clear is that even at a young age, the development of the brain has an effect on the risk. Similarly, cognitive ability can also determine a person’s risk of developing these. Therefore, paying close attention to the academic problems of your kids is necessary.

Can a Test in Teens Predict the Risk of Alzheimer's Disease?

However, this does not mean that a poor performance must be whisked off to tutoring.

The study is interesting because it highlights an important quality of your brain. It says that your brain becomes more resilient if you have a better brain to start off.

Experts say that everyone is at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The risk is so high that the intervention must begin in the 40s or 50s. However, intervening in the early stages of life also seems like an immature move.

The Bottom Line

Researchers said that test scores from a 1960 test may help predict the risk of dementia and another disease.

Researchers pointed out certain identified areas distinct from men and women. These areas can correctly identify the greatest risk of such diseases. For men, low scores in mechanical reasoning indicate a 17% increase in dementia risk.

Experts are of the opinion that it is too early to have a test assess this risk. The findings may not be so accurate and more research is essential.



Nancy Walker

Nancy holds a Medicine degree and a Masters of Science MS in Infectious Disease and Global Health (MS-IDGH) from Tufts University. She worked as a lecturer for three years before she turned towards medical writing. Her area of interest are infectious diseases; causes, mechanism, diagnosis, treatments and prevention strategies. Most of her writings ensure an easy understanding of uncommon diseases.

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