New Dementia Research Finds That The Condition Can Be Spotted In Daydreams

<span class="copyright">triloks via Getty Images</span>
triloks via Getty Images

According to Alzheimer’s Research UK, if nothing changes, one in two of us will be affected by dementia – either by caring for someone with the condition, developing it ourselves, or both.

However, research into the causes, treatment and impact of dementia are ongoing and it seems that we’re getting closer to understanding the condition more than we ever have before.

Now, research from Queen Mary University of London has found a method of detecting dementia which could be used up to nine years before a diagnosis and predict dementia with more than 80% accuracy.

How daydreams can help to detect dementia

The team, which was led by Professor Charles Marshall, developed a predictive test by analysing functional MRI scans to detect changes in the brain’s ‘default mode network’ (DMN).

After scanning 1,000 MRIs from 1,000 BioBank volunteers, the researchers examined the connectivity between 10 regions of the brain that make up the DMN.

Our DMN is active when we’re not engaged in a specific mental task, such as when we’re daydreaming or recalling memories. It’s thinking without a specific goal in mind, rather than we’re engaged in a task that requires attention.

Additionally, this network is one of the first to be impacted by Alzheimer’s disease which is the most common form of dementia.

This is actually what makes this study so uniquely exciting — the brain is being assessed when there is minimal activity.

The researcher’s analysis showed that genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease was strongly associated with connectivity changes in the DMN, which supported their hypothesis that these changes are specific to Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers also found that social isolation was likely to increase risk of dementia through its effect on connectivity in the DMN.

This study offers hope for future dementia diagnosis

Professor Charles Marshall said: “ We hope that the measure of brain function that we have developed will allow us to be much more precise about whether someone is actually going to develop dementia, and how soon, so that we can identify whether they might benefit from future treatments.”