Published on: July 31, 2015
by Julia Wong for Global News:
Unique research taking place in Halifax could one day help with the early detection of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Dr. Steve Patterson, a researcher with BIOTIC, a research imaging lab at the IWK, is leading a study focusing on neurocompensation.
“In Alzheimer’s Disease, people will actually use more or different regions of their brain to perform a task compared to a healthy [person],” he said.
Patterson said scientists believe neurocompensation is an early sign of the disease and presents before behavioural deficits related to Alzheimer’s can be detected.
He and the BIOTIC team are recruiting 20 Alzheimer’s patients over the age of 55 and 20 healthy adults for the study. They currently have eight Alzheimer’s patients and 10 healthy adults.
Study actively recruiting
Suzanne Daniels, a research assistant at BIOTIC, said the study requires two visits to the IWK and one visit to the QE2.
Participants are hooked up to a MEG scanner, which is a non-invasive scanner that detects brain neuron electrical activity. The machine allows researchers to record the magnetic fields that come off of the participants’ brains.
They look at a computer screen and press buttons to differentiate pictures. Then they take a memory test where they are asked if they recognize a picture from the computer test.
“The first part of the test is to prep their brain for the second part … where they’re identifying whether or not they’ve seen the picture before. We can identify where in the brain activation has taken place when they successfully remembered the picture,” she said.
Early diagnosis of the debilitating disease could translate to patients accessing therapies or starting medication programs earlier. The team is hopeful the research will advance understanding of Alzheimer’s as well as contribute to treatment and a cure.
Participant praises research team
Darce Fardy, 83, of Halifax is one of the participants in the study. He was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s approximately a year and a half ago, but said he doesn’t want to let the disease define him.
“There’s no mourning, no waking up every morning [and being upset],” he said.
Fardy said he was very curious about the neurocompensation study and quickly signed up for it when asked.
“I just was asking a lot of questions as you would. I just kept asking questions and I had a lot of fun with them,” he said.
He has nothing but praise for the BIOTIC team and is confident the research will be fruitful.
Patterson hopes to finish recruitment by the end of September. Researchers said the long-term goal is to create a commercial product for doctors and hospitals that will flag patients who may be at risk of dementia.
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