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Test to differentiate Alzheimer’s and depression

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The diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease could soon be made easier by a simple test designed to differentiate between the onset of the condition and depression.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh say asking a patient to perform two mental tasks at the same time is an effective way of isolating the frequently confused illnesses.

Professor Sergio Della Sala compared the “dual-tasking” capacity of 89 Alzheimer’s patients, sufferers of chronic depression and healthy elderly individuals with no memory impairment, with the findings showing that those with Alzheimer’s performed considerably worse than the other test subjects.

An Alzheimer’s Society spokesman said: “Currently, up to two-thirds of people with dementia never receive a formal diagnosis and it is often misdiagnosed as depression.

“Dela Salla’s team aims to develop a simple screening test that will help GPs discriminate Alzheimer’s from normal ageing and depression.

“An early diagnosis is hugely important as it may enable people with dementia to understand their condition, have access to certain drugs that could help relieve some of their symptoms and enable them to plan for their future long-term care needs.”

The findings are reported in the latest issue of the Journal of Neurology.

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