Study: Simple word test could help identify Alzheimer's risk

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British researchers believe that use of a simple word test could be used to identify people who might be suffering from the very early stages of Alzheimer's disease.

For the study, researchers tested 96 Alzheimer's patients and 40 healthy individuals with an average age of 77, to see if they were able to retain very familiar words, ones heard frequently and words learned in early, rather than late, childhood.

"Just by looking at the characteristics of the words people produced, you could correctly determine whether somebody came from the group of healthy controls or the Alzheimer's patients," said Andy Ellis, a professor at the University of York in England, during a presentation during a recent British Association science meeting on Tuesday.

Results of the study reveal that people in the early stages of Alzheimer's diseases cannot write down as many animals and fruits in a one-minute period as healthy individuals can. For example, healthy elderly people listed animals such as giraffes, zebras and badgers in their written test – animal names frequently learned between the ages of 6- and 10-years-old rather than from 1- to 5-years-old. Such animals were not seen on the Alzheimer's patients' lists, which had a higher prevalence of words such as dog and cat.