Early Detection of Alzheimer’s Through Speech
The soul of a person is in their memory. Without that, you lose your identity, your ideas, and your feelings.
For this reason, suffering from a disease like this is terrifying. It seems like it would be inconceivable to continue breathing or moving forward without being who you really are.
This is why many researchers have dedicated a good part of their career fighting against this phenomenon. Although the cure is still far away, great progress has been made in the field of early diagnosis.
These advances include the methods of a team of biomedical engineers from the University of the Basque Country (UPV). They’ve discovered how to detect Alzheimer’s disease early, through speech.
It’s not an invasive test. In fact, patients don’t even realize that they’re being evaluated.
It consists of examining their ability to speak and recall words as they tell a story.
This is a much better test than the classic repetition of a sequence of words because then the patient is aware of the fact that they’re being evaluated. When they know they’re taking a test, it’s easier to feel nervous and make more mistakes.
Early detection of Alzheimer’s has never been easier
Typically, if a person is suspected of having Alzheimer’s, the conventional route is to begin a fairly aggressive testing process: blood analysis, MRIs, CT scans.
This can be a real ordeal for patients, in addition to being a high cost for the healthcare system.
But this method of detecting Alzheimer’s through speech has put a stop to this situation.
The potential patient is asked to talk about an anecdote of their life in a relaxed atmosphere. Meanwhile, the doctor will record the conversation to evaluate alterations in their story.
The Basque research team also stresses the importance of taking pauses to recall certain words.
One of the first symptoms that Alzheimer’s patients have is to forget their words, even if the disease has not progressed very far.
Suddenly, they will have trouble remembering everyday terms, such as microwave or hairbrush. They haven’t been deleted from their mind, but they have to search to find the exact word for the thing they want to communicate.
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Early detection of Alzheimer’s through speech, saving the lives of thousands of people
The UPV team has called attention to the importance of this new method, as more than 46 million people are suffering from this disease.
In addition to that, they expect that if no new solutions are developed, the numbers of patients will only increase.
This is why it’s important to implement a test like this. It enables doctors to fight against the disease before the brain is too damaged.
This way patients can start doing exercises to strengthen their brain, so that the essence of the people you love – or your own – doesn’t disappear or become damaged with time.
The benefits of this research can be seen in the institutions that support it. Prestigious Spanish universities are among them, but there are various family associations that have backed it as well.
Family members feel comforted by these findings
There is no doubt that patients with Alzheimer’s go through a very painful process.
Their family members, however, find themselves in a terrible vortex of unexpected events, not knowing how to react.
As with other similar illnesses, patients often isolate themselves and are disoriented.
Because of this, family associations constitute a refuge and an immeasurable aid for them. They find a place where they can care for themselves at least somewhat, in the company of others who are going through the same process.
This need, the knowledge that the most important person in your life will disappear little by little, leads them to strive to make their condition more manageable every day.
That’s why they support initiatives like this method for early detection through speech. They are hopeful that doctors will eventually be able to find a way to end this disease.
Family associations aren’t the only ones who appreciate the dedication of these doctors – we are all aware of the need. Tomorrow this disease could affect your parents, or even you.
As you know, cases of early-onset Alzheimer’s are becoming more common. That’s why any innovation in early detection should be celebrated and serve as an impetus for more investment in the fight.