New study finds behavioural changes that could be ‘very early’ dementia signs

Alzheimers Research UK explain 'what is dementia?'

Early detection of Alzheimer’s disease can buy precious time to intervene, motivating scientists to uncover the early signs of the mind-robbing condition.

During the early stages of the disease, interventions are usually the most effective, further highlighting the importance of efforts to identify the first symptoms.

Fortunately, new research, published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, has managed to pinpoint behavioural changes that could strike “very early”.

Dr Gerd Kempermann, the senior author of the study, said: “AD [Alzheimer’s disease] does not start when the symptoms become obvious. 

“There is a decades-long silent period, during which the pathology progresses undetected. 

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“Clinicians and researchers have become increasingly interested in what happens during this phase.”

To study this early pathology, the research team used a mouse model with Alzheimer’s disease to replicate this silent period. 

Despite their expectations, the scientists noticed there are some subtle but “important” behavioural changes that occur long before the first plaques hinting at the condition appear.

“The mice [with Alzheimer’s] in our study showed a reduction in individual behaviours,” the doctor said.

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The animal models became more similar and more rigid, which the researchers labelled as behavioural deficits that appear “very early” in the course of the disease.

Research has previously highlighted that behaving out of character could be a sign of the mind-robbing condition.

The doctor added: “This finding is important, because it will help us to understand how we can best tailor preventive measures during the pre-clinical phase. 

“It also underscores that prevention has to start early.”

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Dementia is known to affect a person’s personality and habits, which may trigger different changes in behaviour. 

The Alzheimer’s Society explains that people with the condition may no longer be able to do things they enjoy or follow their interests without help.

Furthermore, the brain condition can cause other behavioural changes, including:

  • Repetitive behaviour
  • Trailing, following and checking
  • Hiding, hoarding and losing things
  • Losing inhibitions
  • Accusing
  • Agitation including restlessness
  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Sundowning (restlessness, agitation, irritability, or confusion that can begin or worsen as daylight begins to fade)
  • Sleep disturbance and waking up at night
  • Social withdrawal.

The NHS recommends seeing a GP if you’re worried about your memory or think you have dementia.

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