Writing tests could help predict Alzheimer’s disease: Study

An analysis of writing patterns may help spot early signs of Alzheimer’s disease years before the onset of the symptoms, says a new study by IBM researchers.

In the study published in The Lancet EClinicalMedicine, the researchers found that older adults who were more repetitive in word usage, made spelling errors, and missed words like ‘the’, ‘is’ and ‘are’ even when they were cognitively normal were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease later.

The study involved a group of 80 men and women in their 80s, The New York Times reported.

They were participants in the Framingham Heart Study, a multi-generational study initiated in 1948 that has spurred thousands of health studies.

As part of it, they took a writing test. At that time, none of the 80 participants developed Alzheimer’s disease.

The IBM researchers used an artificial intelligence (AI) programme that analysed subtle differences in language to examine the word usage by the participants.

The AI programme identified that one group of the participants was more frequent in repeating some words.

They also used a simple grammatical structure in their language and tended to miss words like ‘the’, ‘is’ and ‘are’.

The members of that group went on to develop Alzheimer’s disease later.

In predicting who would get Alzheimer’s disease, the AI programme was found to be 75 per cent accurate, according to the study.

“We had no prior assumption that word usage would show anything,” Ajay Royyuru, vice president of health care and life sciences research at IBM Thomas J Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York, where the AI analysis was done, was quoted as saying.

Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are a growing public health problem among the elderly in developing countries, whose aging population is increasing rapidly.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia and about 5-6 per cent of people in the age group of 65-70 years in India suffer from this problem.

In India, more than 4 million people are estimated to be suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

India’s dementia and Alzheimer’s burden is forecast to reach almost 7.5 million by the end of 2030.

(Source: IANS)