Detection of Alzheimer’s disease with a digital pen

Drawing of people in different conditions (Source: MIT News)
Drawing of people in different conditions (Source: MIT News)

Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disorder that is similar to senile dementia except that it begins in the later stages of life, usually after 40 years. Among the first signs and symptoms of the disease are impaired memory along with impaired thought and speech. However, these signs and symptoms appear after a significant damage to the brain.

This disease (along with many other psychiatric problems such as Parkinson’s) can be detected by doctors and experts with the help of drawing and/or writing. However, doctor’s or expert’s opinion matter a lot in detection of such problems, and these problems become apparent only when the patient has already advanced to serious conditions. Without an expert’s opinion, it is difficult to confirm the problem.

Recently, MIT researchers have developed a digital pen that is attached to a custom tracking software. This digital pen can help in finding the condition in early stages by knowing not only what the person draws but also how he/she draws an image or diagram. A simple fact is that healthy people spend more time in thinking, whereas people with memory problems spend a lot more time in thinking and patients of Parkinson’s disease struggle with the process of drawing.


MIT News (

Souillard-Mandar et al. (2015). Learning Classification Models of Cognitive Conditions from Subtle
Behaviors in the Digital Clock Drawing Test MLJ

Study Examines Association Between Small-Vessel Disease, Alzheimer Pathology

The patient who led to the discovery of Alzheimer disease. (Source: Wikipedia.)
The patient who led to the discovery of Alzheimer disease. (Source: Wikipedia.)

Main Point:

Cerebral small-vessel disease (SVD) and Alzheimer disease (AD) pathology appear to be associated.

Published in:

JAMA Neurology


Maartje I. Kester, M.D., Ph.D., of the VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and colleagues.


AD is believed to be caused by the buildup of amyloid protein in the brain and tau tangles. Previous studies have suggested that SVD and vascular risk factors increase the risk of developing AD. In both SVD and vascular dementia (VaD), signs of AD pathology have been seen. But it remains unclear how the interaction between SVD and AD pathology leads to dementia. Read More …

β-Amyloid Deposits Increase With Age, Associated With Artery Stiffness

Main Points:

Stiffening of the arteries appears to be associated with the progressive buildup of β-amyloid (Αβ) plaque in the brains of elderly patients without dementia, suggesting a relationship between the severity of vascular disease and the plaque that is a hallmark of Alzheimer disease.

Published in:

JAMA Neurology


Timothy M. Hughes, Ph.D., M.P.H., of Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C., and colleagues.


Evidence suggested arterial stiffness is related to brain aging, cerebrovascular disease, impaired cognitive function and dementia in the elderly.

Read More …

Medication to Treat Agitation for Alzheimer Disease Shows Mixed Results

Main Points: 

Chicago – The use of the medication citalopram was associated with a reduction in agitation in patients with Alzheimer disease, although at the dosage used in the study, patients experienced mild cognitive and cardiac adverse effects that might limit the practical application of this medication at the dosage of 30 mg per day, according to a study in the February 19 issue of JAMA.

Published in:


Study Further:

Agitation, which is common in patients with Alzheimer disease, is persistent, difficult to treat, costly, and associated with severe adverse consequences for patients and caregivers. Pharmacologic therapies have proven inadequate and antipsychotic drugs continue to be widely used for this condition despite serious safety concerns, including increased risk of death, and uncertain efficacy, according to background information in the article. Citalopram, an antidepressant drug frequently used in older individuals, has been proposed as an alternative to antipsychotic drugs for agitation and aggression in dementia, yet there is limited evidence for its efficacy and safety.

Read More …

Byproduct of Pesticide DDT in Blood Associated with Increased Alzheimer Risk

An increased risk for Alzheimer disease (AD) appears to be associated with elevated blood levels of a byproduct of the pesticide DDT, which was banned in the United States in 1972 but is still used for agriculture in other countries, according to a study by Jason R. Richardson, Ph.D., of the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, Piscataway, N.J., and colleagues.

AD is the most common neurodegenerative disease in the world and the number of cases is expected to increase. Risk factors for late-onset AD (after age 60 years) are not completely understood but include environmental and lifestyle factors. Having a version of a gene, an apolipoprotein E (APOE ) allele, also appears to increase risk, according to the study background. Read More …

Neurodegenerative diseases and some ideas for research

Brain maze (Credit: Grandeduc/Shutterstock)In case of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), you may start your work from the study of synapses – gaps between the nerve ends – as synaptic dysfunctions are considered as most important disorders in these diseases.

Although a great deal of work has been done on neurodegenerative diseases but they still lack fully potential “disease-modifying therapies”. Disease-modifying therapy (cures the disease as opposed to the cure of only symptoms in symptomatic treatment) may start from ‘toxin-reducing’ approach.

One of the reasons of the lack of better disease-modifying drugs is incomplete understanding of mechanisms underlying the neurodegenerative diseases. Several mechanisms/pathways have been proposed such as “accumulation of neurotoxic substances, inflammation, lipid metabolism, oxidative stress, autophagy, protein degradation and mitochondrial dysfunction” but no drug is still pointing to all these mechanisms.

For the development of potential drugs against AD, better animal models have to be developed. Not only animal models but also significant biomarkers are not present for identification of AD. Presence of biomarkers could help us to understand that how early we have to start the treatment of AD. Read More …

Alzheimer’s disease and some researchable points

Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative disorder that affects the brain and causes dementia, especially late in life. “According to the 2010 World Alzheimer report, there are an estimated 35.6 million people worldwide living with dementia at a total cost of over US$600 billion in 2010, and the incidence of AD throughout the world is expected to double in the next 20 years,” Researchers reported.

There is no known treatment to slow down the progression of this disease.

Finding the biomarkers for the progress of the disease is one of the potential targets of researchers. Biomarkers were a kind of “biological tools that ‘mark’ the presence of pathology, for the early diagnosis of AD and for measuring clinical drug trial outcomes.” Read More …

Nutraceuticals for Alzheimer’s disease

Nutraceuticals in Alzheimer's disease (Credit:
Nutraceuticals in Alzheimer’s disease (Credit:

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the neurodegenerative disorder that affects the brain leading to dementia. It usually occurs late in life.

Reason behind the Alzheimer’s disease:

Researchers found senile plaques and components of the plaques such as amyloid beta peptide (Abeta), which is a proteolytic fragment of the amyloid precursor protein, and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain lesions as the basic diagnosis of the AD.

Plaques found in the brain are found to be the cause of the damage to the cholinergic neurons found in the basal forebrain of the AD patients. Read More …