As from the age of 40 we begin to experience cognitive changes, and certain people have the sensation that their capabilities are “worsening”. In some, this apparent deterioration is a physiological change typical of the ageing process, but in others it has pathological significance. With this in mind, we launched a study aimed at identifying a series of clinical characteristics that may constitute a greater risk of developing a neurodegenerative disease in individuals over 60 with cognitive decline. Knowledge of these characteristics would enable the patient’s doctor to detect them quickly and conduct more precise monitoring.
Furthermore, until now diagnosis of the disease was based on visual assessment of beta-amyloid accumulation using a positron emission tomography (PET) scan of the patient’s brain to see if the build-up was consistent with a substrate of Alzheimer’s. However, as this is a subjective criterion, quantitative methods are now being introduced to measure the amount of amyloid deposited. Our work has enabled us to ascertain the threshold beyond which we can identify at an early stage that the beta-amyloid protein is accumulating and that the patient is consequently at risk of suffering the disease. This opens the door to expanding the number of people who are candidates for prevention strategies.