Diagnosing the early signs of Alzheimer’s Disease – before obvious symptoms develop – is still tricky. But it may become less so due to work done by Spanish scientists at Madrid’s Complutense University.

Using noninvasive imaging methods, the researchers found that different layers of tissue in the retinas of Alzheimer’s patients’ thickened and thinned in distinctive patterns. Because the retina, like the brain, is made of neural tissue, changes in the brain can be reflected in the eyes. Scrutinizing the retina regularly could spot the earliest indications of the disease long before trouble with cognition or memory appear.

In September, a study out of the University of California at San Diego reported a correlation between Alzheimer’s and the way eye pupils dilate during cognitive tests. The tests were designed to stress a part of the brain called the locus coeruleus, a center of cognitive task processing and the first place where the protein plaques that characterize Alzheimer’s appear.

The study found that the harder it was for a person to carry out the mental task, the more the pupils dilated. That early sign of mental difficulty can signal the need for more comprehensive testing and lifestyle changes that can forestall the disease.

TRENDPOST: Recent research is showing that, in most instances, Alzheimer’s Disease can be halted and often reversed. The key to minimizing the human and financial cost of the illness is detecting it before the mind is compromised. By 2025, Alzheimer’s screening using eye exams, blood tests, and other means will be available as part of regular physical exams.

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