Emory Report
January 28, 2008
Volume 60, Number 17

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January 28, 2008
Portable device detects early Alzheimer’s signs

Byjennifer johnson

The latest medications can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, but none are able to reverse its devastating effects.

This limitation often makes early detection the key to Alzheimer’s patients maintaining a good quality of life for as long as possible.

A new device developed by Emory and Georgia Tech may allow patients to take a brief, inexpensive test that could be administered as part of a routine yearly checkup at a doctor’s office to detect mild cognitive impairment — often the earliest stage of Alzheimer’s. The device is expected to be commercialized later this year.

Called DETECT, the device gives individuals a roughly 10-minute test designed to gauge reaction time and memory — functions that, when impaired, are associated with the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
“With this device, we might be able to pick up impairment well before serious symptoms occur and start patients on medications that could delay those symptoms,” says David Wright, assistant professor of emergency medicine and co-director of the Emory Emergency Medicine Research Center, who helped develop the device with Michelle LaPlaca, an associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory.

Preliminary analysis of the first 100 patients of a 400-person clinical study being conducted at Emory’s Wesley Woods Center has shown that the DETECT test has similar accuracy to the 90-minute “gold standard” pen and paper test.