For individuals at risk of early onset of Alzheimer’s the latest research shows that the physiological changes often start 20 years before the onset of dementia. These individuals are typically in their 40s when Alzheimer’s bio-markers in cerebrospinal fluid are first identifiable. Fifteen years prior to the onset of dementia, MRI scans will often show atrophy of the brain for this population. Episodic memory problems generally begin about 10 years before dementia and brain metabolic changes associated with these memory problems can then be detected by PET scans.
A diagnosis of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) will generally occur about 5 years before the individual is clinically identified as having dementia. This research presents a clear progressive timeline that leads to the recognition of the value of early detection of Alzheimer’s disorder by using bio-markers. It then becomes possible to begin interventions such as cognitive training or drug therapy early enough to effectively slow down or even possibly prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s dementia.

Reference:

1. Bateman R. The dominantly inherited Alzheimer’s network trials: an opportunity to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Program and abstracts of the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2012; July 14-19, 2012; Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Featured research session F3-04