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Reduced Computer Time May Be A Sign Of Early Alzheimer's In Seniors

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There is a new tool to detect Alzheimer's disease even in its early stages and it's right inside your house — the home computer.

A new study sheds light on the importance of home computer to help doctors in detecting early signs of Alzheimer's disease (AD), the most common type of dementia worldwide.

Researchers from the Oregon Health and Science University's (OHSU) Brain Institute have found a significant relationship between reduced use of computer and brain imaging scans commonly seen in early-stage Alzheimer's patients.

Published online in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, the study involved following a group of participants in Portland for nine years through a suite of embedded technology in their homes.

During the study, the researchers used Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans to measure the hippocampus volume of Alzheimer's-free adults aged 65 years and older. Hippocampus is the part of the brain which is essential for memory function.

The team also measured the time spent by the respondents in using the computer and found that an additional hour of computer use each day was linked with a 0.025 percent greater volume of hippocampus. A lesser volume of the hippocampus could signal an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

Computer use requires a lot of brain functions like attention, planning and memory. The researchers hypothesize that though older adults may have other reasons for using the computer less often, diminishing mental capabilities could be one of them.

The researchers said that they will continue to follow the study's participants to determine whether diminished hippocampal area and reduced computer use might predict future declines in memory and thinking.

The number of people being affected by AD is increasing and it is happening fast. The Alzheimer's Association projected [pdf] that the number of people who are 65 years and older with AD could reach to about 7.1 million by 2025. This is a 40 percent increase from the 5.1 million people with AD in 2015.

In 2016 alone, there are an estimated 5.4 million people of all ages who are suffering from the neurodegenerative disease. By 2050, the estimated number of people will jump to 13.8 million.

AD is now considered the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and the fifth-leading cause of death for people age 65 and older.

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