Washington: If you don't remember your way around, then it could be an early sign of Alzheimer's disease, according to a recent study.
Long before Alzheimer's disease can be diagnosed clinically, increasing difficulties building cognitive maps of new surroundings may herald the eventual clinical onset of the disorder, finds the Washington University study.
Senior author Denise Head said that these findings suggest that navigational tasks designed to assess a cognitive mapping strategy could represent a powerful new tool for detecting the very earliest Alzheimer's disease-related changes in cognition.
She added that the spatial navigation task used in this study to assess cognitive map skills was more sensitive at detecting preclinical Alzheimer's disease than the standard psychometric task of episodic memory.
The cognitive findings from this study are consistent with where in the brain the ill effects of Alzheimer's disease first surface, as well as with the progression of the disease to other brain regions.
"Our observations suggest a progression such that preclinical Alzheimer's disease is characterized by hippocampal atrophy and associated cognitive mapping difficulties, particularly during the learning phase," said first author Samantha Allison. "As the disease progresses, cognitive mapping deficits worsen, the caudate becomes involved, and route learning deficits emerge."
The study is published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.