New Study Shows Smartphone Apps Can Help Diagnose Dementia Sooner

New Study Shows Smartphone Apps Can Help Diagnose Dementia Sooner

A new smartphone application could help memory care professionals diagnose and therefore treat dementia sooner,

New research, led by the University of California San Francisco and recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), showed that a specially designed app could detect early signs of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) in people who were genetically predisposed for dementia e but had not yet shown symptoms. 

Researchers in the study monitored 360 participants, who had an average age of 54 years. The app used in the study was developed in collaboration with software company Datacubed Health. It tests users in certain kinds of cognitive ability, including executive function, planning and prioritizing, dealing with distractions and controlling impulses.

The researchers noted that the tests were as sensitive as other kinds of neuropsychological evaluations, such as those that an older adult would get in a clinic.More than two dozen clinical trials are underway to test the approach with people potentially living with FTD.

“Eventually, the app may be used to monitor treatment effects, replacing many or most in-person visits to clinical trials’ sites,” Adam Staffaroni, PhD, clinical neuropsychologist and associate professor in the UCSF Department of Neurology and the Weill Institute for Neurosciences, was quoted in an article regarding the preliminary findings.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, FTD is the leading cause of dementia in patients under the age of 60. With FTD being commonly diagnosed within the latter stages of the disease, symptoms can often be mistaken as psychiatric disorders, senior author Adam Boxer, MD, PhD, and endowed professor in memory and aging at the UCSF Department of Neurology, stated in the article.

“We’ve heard from families that they often suspect their loved one has FTD long before a physician agrees that is the diagnosis,” Boxer said.

The data from the study was used by researchers to develop new tests that could, down the road, help researchers diagnose and monitor FTD symptoms earlier than has been typical.

“A major barrier has been a lack of outcome measures that can be easily collected and are sensitive to treatment effects at early stages of the disease,” Staffaroni said. “We hope that smartphone assessments will facilitate new trials of promising therapies.”

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