Posts Tagged tests

Peanut Butter and Recognizing Famous Faces Tests for Alzheimer’s and dementia

Alzheimer’s disease is difficult to diagnose before symptoms start showing up, because there is no single test that can definitively determine whether a person has the degenerative brain disease.

Could a scoop of peanut butter and a ruler become that elusive test?

That’s what researchers at the University of Florida’s McKnight Brain Institute Center for Smell and Taste are hoping. They found patients with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease had more difficulty smelling peanut butter held at short distances from their nose than people without the disease.  Courtesy of CBSNews.com  For rest of the article click here.

This test is in it’s infancy and had a small sample of patients that were used.  But even with that, with no cure in sight and only medications to hopefully slow down the effects of dementia/Alzheimer’s it is something to consider.  My statistics and research method professor would raise one eyebrow at me and say that a much larger sample size would be needed and I hope they do more research on this finding.  I imagine that providing the patient didn’t already have a diminished since of smell or physical problems with their sense of smell this could be interesting.

After reading this I immediately wanted to go find a jar of peanut butter and do a bit of a lay test to see how well I could smell the peanut butter and from how far away.  There wasn’t any in the house so I had to limit my “test” to smelling bacon cooking in the kitchen from the second floor of the house 😉

 

The second test (again another small sample size) consisted of  “testing 30 people with primary progressive aphasia (PPA), a rare kind of early-onset dementia that occurs when parts of the brain degenerate to cause problems in speech and language. The researchers also looked at 27 people without dementia that acted as controls.  People with this type of dementia consistently forget names of famous people they once knew — it’s more than forgetting a name or two of a famous person.” Read the rest of this article here.

Again there goes the voice of my stats and research methods professor about the small sample size.  I also think  you might want to take into account that some people just may not know or ever knew who some of those famous people in the test were.  We are talking about a cultural bias possibly here but I digress.  We’ve all known someone who just cannot remember names of people to save their lives but are otherwise perfectly on the ball.  And we’ve all had the “tip of the tongue” syndrome where we just can’t recall the name of a person, movie, song, etc. for anything until later on in the day in the middle of our soup and we have our eureka moment and remember what we couldn’t earlier.

It happens.

But as Catherine Roe, an instructor in neurology at the Washington University school of medicine in St. Louis, Missouri said “To help us know how to use this test as a screening tool,” Roe said, “more research needs to be done to figure out whether this test distinguishes all people with dementia from people without dementia or whether it distinguishes only people with one particular type of early-onset dementia from people without dementia.” Quote courtesy of CBSNews.com.

To all of this I say keep plugging away researchers! Keep plugging away!

 

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Would you want to know?

I’m taking a bit of a detour from the memoirs and presenting some information to you; information that is scary, hopeful, and well…informative!  Testing for many diseases exist that can range from a scraping of your throat, sticking that awful swab up your nose to test for the flu (when that was done to me I thought about that scene with Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall), to blood being drawn to be run through a myriad of tests.  And in many cases we want and need to have those tests done so that we can treat the disease.  But what about for something that is much more daunting like cancer or Alzheimer’s?

Would you want to know if you were a high risk for such diseases as those before they ever began to manifest themselves?

Recently in the news Angelina Jolie had a double mastectomy in order to prevent the breast cancer that tests indicated she was highly likely to get; she has since announced she may have further surgery to prevent the high potential for ovarian cancer which claimed her mother.  Knowing that I had a high chance of developing any devastating disease, would scare the hell out of me to go in and be tested for.  But unlike with Alzheimer’s, there are cures for those cancers and some very good preventative measures which given the option I’d probably do.  But would I want to go in for a blood test that could tell me if I had a chance of developing this form of dementia?

Here are some articles about a possible blood test for Alzheimer’s here and here.

The key word here is potential.  The test is still being developed and as with many medical discoveries is in need of funding and more years of research.  But if it were a genuinely tried and true test, would you take it?  The aforementioned articles talk about if you knew would you change things about your life like what you ate, how you exercised, if you would have children?  What a freaking conundrum!  On one hand knowing your risk factor could help you in so many ways to modify your life; to make arrangements before they were needed and while you could still have control over things.  But on the other hand, life is short and precious and why should you wait until you have a horrible diagnosis before you learn how to live life.

We should take care of these vessels that hold our spirits the best we can anyway.  After all until science catches up with science fiction, these are the only bodies we are ever going to have.  We should carpe diem every chance we get instead of postponing doing this, going there, seeing that, spending time with someone, etc.

My family history contains one mother, one first cousin, and one maternal grandfather who had/have Alzheimer’s.  So far all things considered I’m pretty healthy for my age (and I am not about to tell you that number lol) but would I want to know?  It has been scientifically shown that sometimes the disease does run in families and sometimes it doesn’t.  That’s just how the genetic dice roll.  But would I want to know ahead of time? I unequivocally say NO! I’m anxious enough as it is just waiting to get my cholesterol numbers back from my physical.  I’d have to be sedated while waiting for those test results which could either free or condemn me.

I’ve learned since being a caregiver to not put off things and to enjoy life the best one can because there is no promise of tomorrow.  I could have a heart attack, get hit by a bus, eat some tainted food, or develop dementia.  I’d rather enjoy my life as well as I can and do my very best to stay healthy without having that manner of cloud hanging over my head.  Knowing that – if positive – ahead of time would send me into a spiral of depression which wouldn’t improve my standard of living one bit.  I can’t and don’t want to live in that kind of fear (even though sometimes I do)…I want to live, period!

But your mileage may vary and you may want to know.  And that is your right.  I just hope that as they work at improving this predictive blood test that they work equally hard at finding a cure.

So would you want to know; would you take the test? Please share your thoughts…

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