Smartphones will be able to spot Alzheimer’s disease up to 30 years before symptoms appear, scientists say.
The new digital test is reportedly 90 percent accurate, compared to 50 percent for current basic methods using pen and paper questions.
It uses virtual-reality headsets to examine recall of directions — the first skill hit by Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related ailments.
Experts say smartphones and gadgets such as Fitbits could perform similar checks within five years.
Cambridge University’s Dr Dennis Chan — who developed the technique to examine 86 elderly patients — said: “We don’t want to carry on with Q&As that don’t really work.
“This checks if behaviors change. Navigation is the first thing affected. Do you start taking different routes or doubling back?
“It’s an early red flag. You can’t hide dementia from these tests. Within five years we should be able to do them on smartphones.”
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. By 2050, this number is expected to rise to 14 million.
There is no cure but some drugs curb symptoms. Dr Chan, whose research appears in journal Brain, added: “Wearable tech and apps will detect those at highest risk decades in advance.
“Doctors can intervene early with lifestyle advice to reduce the chance of developing the disease. If drugs are identified that work, they can start treatment when they are most likely to help.”
Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Dr Laura Phipps is looking forward to the advancements in early detection.
“We need ways to diagnose earlier and more accurately,” she said.