With Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, the brain damage starts long before the first symptoms appear. Could simple eye control tests lead to an early diagnosis?
Queen's University's Doug Munoz has found that Alzheimer's and Parkinson's patients perform poorly on tests that measure their control over fast eye movements called saccades, in ways that are distinctive for each disease. The patients did worse on the tests as their symptoms progressed.
Dr. Munoz now wants to follow people as they age to see if the tests can detect subtle, early signs that are predictive of who will eventually develop Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. "It really looks like using it as a biomarker to see something early is going to work. As the disease progresses, these measures get worse and worse, so we figure we can back it up," he said.
Currently, there is no definitive way to predict who will get either disease.
Alzheimer's is a form of dementia, while Parkinson's is a degenerative disease that affects muscle control. There is no cure for either. In both, many researchers suspect it might be easier to stop or slow down damage to the brain if they could be caught early enough.