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Senior Health: Can the Greebles Diagnosis Dementia? | Denver, CO

Nov 15, 2017 by Comfort Keepers Denver

Researchers across the globe are constantly working to unravel the many mysteries still behind neurodegenerative diseases. Dementia specifically affects many seniors, and is one of the most complex sets of conditions to both diagnose and treat.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. Fortunately, a new, seemingly silly study may help predict this disease decades before the patient’s symptoms appear. Here’s the scoop:

The Nature of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease accounts for as many as 80% of dementia cases in the United States. Up to 5.5 million older Americans may have the condition, which is quite scary, given the disease is, currently, progressive and irreversible.

The most common early symptoms of the disease are:

  • New problems with language, such as speaking or writing
  • Poor decision making and judgment
  • Mood or personality changes
  • Memory loss that affects day-to-day life
  • Confusion regarding where you are or what time or day/year it is

In regards to this Greebles’ test, the component of Alzheimer’s being focused on mostly in the study is genetic predisposition. Having at least one parent with Alzheimer’s increases your risk of getting the disease, though it’s not known for certain why this is the case.

Here is where the Greebles come in...

What the Heck Is a Greeble?

This is what I mean by a “silly” test – the Greebles are actually a fictional group of “characters” that are used throughout psychology to test facial recognition capabilities. There are 10 Greebles that consist of two genders and five families, but they are have very similar characteristics – a round or cylindrical body with one point protruding from it, and three points poking out of their head.

On a separate note, the term “greebles” is also used to describe the cinematic special effect that makes objects look more complex and textured than they actually are – think of the bumpy spacecraft in the Star Wars movies, for example.

So, what in the world does this have to do with Alzheimer’s disease?

The  "Greeble" Study and Its Findings

In short, the study involved participants aged 40 – 60 years old who were genetically predisposed to the disease. A control group of individuals with no family history of Alzheimer’s and in the same age group was also tested as comparison. The participants were given a series of pictures of faces, scenes, real-world objects, and Greebles, the goal at hand being to pick the “odd man out” of each set of pictures.

Though both groups had the same level of success in differentiating between faces, scenes and objects, the Greebles results were different. The control group had 9% more correct answers than those predisposed to Alzheimer’s.

Since Alzheimer’s disease takes so long to develop and progress, the sooner a patient finds out the likelihood of getting the disease, the sooner they can work to prevent it. Currently, by the time the disease is diagnosed, so much brain damage has already occurred that it’s too late to go back.

Specifically, this means that non-invasive and non-pharmaceutical interventions can be used early to help prevent the onset of the disease. These forms of intervention include lifestyle changes, such as change in diet or quitting smoking, and therapeutic changes.

While they need to conduct more research to determine if these individuals actually develop Alzheimer’s later on, it’s still another door open to early diagnosis.

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