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Could an App Help Predict Thinking Declines for Those With Alzheimer's?

Key Takeaways

  • A new model predicts how an individual's Alzheimer's disease will progress

  • Dutch researchers hope to turn it into an app for patients' use

  • A personalized forecast could help gauge the possible effects of Alzheimer's treatments

THURSDAY, July 11, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- Dutch researchers are developing an app to predict how individual cases of Alzheimer's disease will progress.

Based on data from nearly 1,000 Alzheimer's patients, they have already developed a prediction model that can forecast mental decline in people who have mild cognitive impairment or mild dementia. 

The model is a step toward personal forecasting, researchers said. 

"In the future, this will become even more important if we can treat Alzheimer's disease," said Wiesje van der Flier, research director at Alzheimer Centre Amsterdam. "Doctors can use the prediction model to explain what the possible effect of a treatment can be."

For example, she said, it could forecast the effects of medication use or lifestyle changes. At diagnosis, a patient's first question is typically: What happens now?

"This can be a starting point for conversations between doctor, patient and family about the pros and cons of treatments, so that they can come to an appropriate decision together," van der Flier said in a medical center news release. 

The findings were published July 10 in the journal Neurology.

While the predictions are not 100% accurate, the model does indicate how the disease stands to progress over a five-year period, researchers said. 

They have made a prototype app available for scientific research. The next step is to develop one that is user-friendly, with input from patients, family members and professionals.

To make a prediction, the model relies on general information such as age, gender and cognitive test scores, along with data from MRI scans and biomarkers in cerebrospinal fluid.

"As a result, it gives a prediction that is really tailored to each individual," said physician-researcher Pieter van der Veere of Amsterdam UMC. 

Even so, the model shows how tricky it is to make a precise prediction for each patient, because there are always uncertainties, researchers said. These are always discussed with the patient.

"Previous research shows that people still want information about their prognosis, even if this information is uncertain," said van der Veere. "An app with our prediction model can therefore meet an important need."

More information

The Alzheimer's Association has more about how Alzheimer's disease is diagnosed.

SOURCE: Amsterdam University Medical Center, news release, July 10, 2024

What This Means For You

An app could one day predict an Alzheimer's patient's personal cognitive trajectory.