Changes in the way you draw could describe Alzheimer’s risk, study finds

Changes in the way you draw could describe Alzheimer’s risk, study finds

  • The way people draw on paper could detect early signs of Alzheimer’s disease
  • A published study found consistent differences in how people drew in tasks
  • People with dementia stop longer when drawing and use the pen at jerky speed

The way people draw on paper could detect early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

People with dementia pause longer when drawing, use the pen at jerky speeds, and are more erratic in how hard they press, according to a study.

The researchers recruited 144 people, including 27 with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease, 65 with mild cognitive impairment, and 52 age-matched people who had neither.

They found that an algorithm, judging 22 different measures of drawing style, correctly identified these people with 75% accuracy. Published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, the study found consistent differences in how people drew in tasks.

The researchers recruited 144 people, including 27 with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease, 65 with mild cognitive impairment and 52 people the same age who had neither (file image )

Professor Tetsuaki Arai, lead author of the study from the University of Tsukuba in Japan, said: “Our findings pave the way for better screening tests for cognitive impairment.” Drawing tests are already used to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. But traditionally, these tests analyze the red flags of dementia, such as slower thinking speed.

Early detection of mild signs of mental impairment could prevent or delay the development of dementia.

The new study looked at factors such as how often they paused, how quickly they drew and how they held the pen.

Unusually, the researchers measured these characteristics across five separate tasks.

These included the three tests above, plus an analysis of how people wrote a sentence and did a more complicated version of the line drawing test, connecting letters and numbers, like a follow-up to A and two followed by B.

The study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, found consistent differences in how people drew for the five tasks, which were done using a pen and digital tablet rather than a a pen and paper.

Researchers were able to detect people with Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment through longer pauses when people were drawing, slower drawing speed, and greater variability in pen pressure .

The way people draw on paper could detect early signs of Alzheimer's disease (file image)

The way people draw on paper could detect early signs of Alzheimer’s disease (file image)

The accuracy of the different tests, in detecting people with Alzheimer’s, mild cognitive impairment or not, ranged from 53% when people were judged writing a sentence, to 67% for the line drawing task. more delicate.

But overall, the accuracy for all five sets was 75.2%.

It is important to detect mild cognitive impairment, which often begins with mild memory problems such as forgetting recent events or repeating the same question.

Taking it early could prevent or delay a person who gets dementia.

The study found that 27 measures of drawing style could tell the difference between mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease, although the algorithm also incorrectly classified 12 healthy people as having mild cognitive impairment then that they weren’t.

The drawing provides clues as to whether someone has early-stage Alzheimer’s disease, as changes in the brain can affect both memory and the way we control our movements.

Researchers are already looking at how hard people press when drawing to diagnose Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease, but the technique has rarely been used for dementia.

Professor Arai said: “We were surprised at how well the combination of drawing strokes taken from multiple tasks worked in capturing different complementary aspects of cognitive impairment.

“The accuracy of the three-group classification of the five tests was 75.2%, nearly 10% better than any of the tests alone.”

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