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New test could speed up dementia diagnosis

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Dementia

A University of Bath neuroscientist has been awarded a grant of £92,747 to help develop a pioneering new approach to detect Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Dr George Stothart will use the sum awarded by charity BRACE Dementia Research to investigate whether three major types of dementia can be detected by ‘Fastball EEG’ technology.

The revolutionary technology, which Dr Stothart has developed, could help significantly lower the age at which conditions such as Alzheimer’s are diagnosed.

Participants look at a series of flashing images on a computer screen over two minutes, while their brain waves are measured using an EEG cap.

In a breakthrough study published last September in the journal BRAIN, the Fastball technique was highly effective at picking up small, subtle changes in brain waves which occur when a person remembers an image.

Crucially, the technique is completely passive, meaning the person doing the test doesn’t need to understand the task or respond, and may not even be consciously aware of their memory response.

Dr George Stothart of the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath explained:

“This award will be instrumental in further developing Fastball to help diagnose all forms of dementia, not just Alzheimer’s disease.

“BRACE’s support has been invaluable to the development of Fastball and we are excited to begin this new avenue of cutting edge research.”

Dr Stothart is studying frontotemporal dementia, dementia with Lewy Bodies and Vascular Dementia.

These three variants  account for more than 250,000 dementia cases in the UK.

The researchers hope that earlier diagnosis can allow people affected and their families to plan their future, including using lifestyle interventions such as stopping smoking and exercise which have been shown to help slow down the progress of the disease.

Mark Poarch, Chief Executive at BRACE said:

“We were delighted to be able to fund Dr Stothart’s first Fastball project, which has had an astonishing impact.

“It could result in a new diagnostic tool that transforms the prospects of vast numbers of people who are developing Alzheimer’s disease.

“BRACE is thrilled to be supporting the next phase in Dr Stothart’s research, extending the same technology to three other major forms of dementia.

“It shows that local research from a local charity can have a global impact.”

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