Help Beat Alzheimer’s WITH ALL THE Click OF THE Mouse

If you have 10 minutes and a Web connection, you may be in a position to help analysts answer pressing questions about Alzheimer’s disease. As many as 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, even though researchers are learning more about the condition every day, its exact cause remains unfamiliar. Researchers, including two neuropsychologists from the University of Arizona, are now leveraging the energy of the Internet to gather information they hope can help them to better understand the human memory and possible risk factors for Alzheimer’s. The ambitious project, called MindCrowd, aims in its first stage to engage an unprecedented 1 million people across the globe in an online memory testing.

Anyone may take the test, which requires about ten minutes to complete on the MindCrowd website. Those that meet certain requirements in the first stage of screening may later be invited to take part in the project’s second stage, that may include additional online memory checks, as well as hereditary testing of individuals’ saliva.

Researchers ultimately desire to be able to identify genetic markers that are linked to learning and memory, which could be considered a major step toward understanding and dealing with Alzheimer’s disease and other brain disorders. MindCrowd is a collaborative work among the Translational Genomics Institute in Phoenix (also known as TGen), the UA and the Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative.

Professors Elizabeth Glisky, the mind of the UA psychology section, and Lee Ryan, associate mind of the UA mindset department and associate director of the UA’s Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute, developed the web test. A lot more than 50,000 people have taken the test as of this month, which is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. Glisky, also a member of the UA’s Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute.

The MindCrowd website was made with the average Internet user at heart. Anyone may take the test from the comfort of home, and they will see their results and how they build up against others instantly. MindCrowd principal investigator Matt Huentelman, a co-employee professor in TGen’s Neurogenomics Division. The MindCrowd test is now being translated into as many as 10 different languages to make it more accessible to people across the globe. The study’s cross-cultural findings could be a significant contribution to the Alzheimer’s literature, Ryan said. The MindCrowd team already has some preliminary findings, which Huentelman shown last week through the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

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Among those results: Women performed better on the memory test than men across all age ranges, from 18 to 85. People who reported having a higher level of education tended to have higher scores also. And folks who reported having a family history of Alzheimer’s disease scored consistently lower than those who didn’t report a family history of the condition. The first-phase assessment focuses only on verbal storage, asking individuals to memorize word pairings.

Phase-two tests, which are being developed by Glisky and Ryan also, will look at verbal, spatial, and visual memory, for a broader range. Also during phase two, which is expected to release sometime in the spring, TGen will carry out hereditary screening of saliva samples mailed in by chosen individuals. Additional data will be collected through brain scans of certain participants, done at the UA. The gene variant ApoE4 is a known genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. However, not everyone with the gene variant will establish the disease, and not everyone who builds up the gene is acquired by the condition version.

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