Low Scores on Memory and Thinking Tests May Signal AlzheimerÛªs Earlier than Thought A study suggests that errors on memory and thinking tests may signal AlzheimerÛªs up to 18 years before the disease can be diagnosed. The research was published in the online issue of Neurologyå¨, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. ÛÏThe changes in thinking and memory that precede obvious symptoms of AlzheimerÛªs disease begin decades before,Û said study author Kumar B. Rajan, PhD, with Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. ÛÏWhile we cannot currently detect such changes in individuals at risk, we were able to observe them among a group of individuals who eventually developed dementia due to AlzheimerÛªs.Û For the study, 2,125 European-American and African-American people from Chicago with an average age of 73 without AlzheimerÛªs disease were given tests of memory and thinking skills every three years for 18 years. Twenty-three percent of African-Americans and 17 percent of European-Americans developed AlzheimerÛªs disease during the study. Those who scored lower overall on the memory and thinking tests had an increased risk of developing the disease. During the first year of the study, people with lower test scores were about 10 times more likely to be diagnosed with AlzheimerÛªs disease than people with higher scores. Based on tests completed 13 to 18 years before the final assessments took place, one unit lower in performance of the standardized cognitive test score was associated with an 85 percent greater risk of future dementia. ÛÏA general current concept is that in development of AlzheimerÛªs disease, certain physical and biologic changes precede memory and thinking impairment. If this is so, then these underlying processes may have a very long duration. Efforts to successfully prevent the disease may well require a better understanding of these processes near middle age,Û Rajan said. I’m not exactly sure how you “prepare” for memory and thinking tests so that you score better and perhaps reduce your risk. A study like this, which needs further study (don’t they all) just serves to scare more people than help I think.