Your driving could reveal early signs of Alzheimer's


 

This test could be a cheap way to detect this condition at an early stage and potentially support treatment. Everyone's driving changes as they get older. But in some people, subtle differences arise in the way a vehicle is controlled, which scientists say are related to the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.


In an experiment to find out if these differences in driving can be detected by tracking devices based on the Global Positioning System (GPS) , a group of people over 65 years of the State of Washington (USA) agreed to have their driving monitored during one year.


What the researchers wanted to find out was whether simply studying the driving habits of this group could reveal the onset of the disease, without the need for invasive or expensive medical procedures.


After 365 days of accumulating the information, they are sure that it could. Among the 139 people who participated in the study, medical tests had already shown that about half had very early or preclinical Alzheimer's disease. The other half did not.


Analysis of their driving revealed detectable differences between the two groups.


Specifically, those with a lzhe preclinical Imer tended to drive slower, to make sudden changes, to travel less at night, and record fewer kilometers in general, for example. They also visited a lesser variety of destinations when driving, sticking to slightly more limited routes.


Sayeh Bayat, a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto, who led the study, the way people move around their everyday environment, from the places they visit the way they drive, can tell us a lot about their health.

GPS trackers installed in the participants' cars revealed these movements and when they occurred in detail.


The researchers who carried out the study had previously divided their participants between those with preclinical Alzheimer's disease and those without, using medical tests such as analysis of cerebrospinal fluid and positron emission tomography (PET).


But using the results of the driving data, they were able to design a model that could predict the probability that someone had preclinical Alzheimer's simply using their age and their GPS driving data. Accuracy was 86%.


Bayat said, using these few indicators ... you can really, with very high confidence, identify whether a person has preclinical Alzheimer's disease or not.


The model was even more accurate (90%) when the results of a genetic test for Alzheimer's known as the apolipoprotein E genotype (APOE) were added, which indicates whether you may have an inherited risk of the disease.


(Although it must be borne in mind that this group is a small minority of people who end up developing Alzheimer's). But the prediction based solely on age and driving was almost as accurate.

An economic Alzheimer's prediction


Larger randomized studies are needed to demonstrate a definitive relationship between detected driving behaviors and preclinical Alzheimer's disease. However, but the possible differential fact is that this research could be a cheap way to detect this condition at an early stage and potentially support treatment. But it also raises the question of whether older people would want their behavior to be followed so closely, even if there were health benefits.


The fact that drivers' behavior changes when they have Alzheimer's is well documented. The US National Institute on Aging maintains that family members may notice that their loved one takes longer to complete an easy trip, drives more erratically, or gets confused on the pedal, for example.


However, it is difficult to detect the most subtle changes, such as slower driving, early on. This distinction, Bayat says, requires the collection of data over time for detailed analysis.


The study participants with preclinical Alzheimer's, in some cases, drove less at night, restricted their driving to slightly smaller areas around their home, or traveled slower than expected.


The best way to predict, through driving data, whether someone without preclinical Alzheimer's may be at risk for developing it might be to monitor their driving on the road for a longer period of time.


This could reveal changes in his driving. Laura Phipps, from the Alzheimer's Research Center in the UK, says the study is really interesting and adds that changes in driving behavior are often perceived by family members of a person who is later diagnosed with the disease.


Phipps said, what they'll tell us is that often one of the first symptoms or signs they notice is that their loved one started ... losing it.

Few drugs for the early stages


The specialist explains that there are currently relatively few drugs available to treat Alzheimer's disease in its initial phase, but she hopes that this will change in the future. If this is the case, having an early indication of who is prone to developing the disease - without the need for expensive or invasive procedures could help doctors know when to prescribe treatments.


Research has shown that the disease can actually start in the brain up to 20 years before symptoms appear. Data on driving or other behaviors, such as changes in the way you speak, could also drive lifestyle changes that help keep Alzheimer's at bay. The UK National Health Service advises taking care of heart health and staying socially and mentally active, among other preventive measures that citizens can take. The idea that driving analysis could help people control and even delay the onset of the most serious symptoms of Alzheimer's sounds tempting.


But there is always the possibility of errors in this analysis. Or that the results have negative consequences.


Data risk


Many drivers of all ages already allow their insurers to use telematics or a black box to measure their driving, which can lead to a lower insurance premium. But in the future, could these devices accurately predict your risk of Alzheimer's and take that into account as well?


Although this potential scenario is a long way from the insurance market, it is something that could be of concern to current black box owners, who have had problems with the accuracy of their devices in the past.


Rhoda Au of Boston University argues that clients should have more control over the fate of their data in general, to avoid unfair discrimination of their habits or behaviors. They should have the right to decide what is shared and what is not.


He said, she jokingly points out that her own driving could be considered erratic: I'm just thinking: God, these Google folks must think I'm crazy ... I have no sense of direction.


The specialist believes that, in general, new data collection systems designed to find subtle correlations between behavior and medical conditions are likely to be flawed. But given the potential benefits of being able to identify people at risk for Alzheimer's disease early, there are good reasons to carefully explore those possibilities now.


You have to start somewhere, he reflects.

7 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Streaming video giant Netflix has decided to cut 150 jobs after releasing disappointing first-quarter results, citing "slower revenue growth

Before Elon Musk completed his acquisition deal, three more senior employees left Twitter. Currently, the acquisition has stalled. Twitter V