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Smart People Need Tougher Alzheimer's Testing

Required to accurately assess risk for highly intelligent people

MONDAY, Jan. 5, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Smart people need to be held to a higher testing standard if they're to be correctly diagnosed for early signs of Alzheimer's disease, says a new study.

Researchers found raised standards better predicted future mental decline in intelligent people than did comparing their responses against normal standards. The finding is reported in the January issue of Neuropsychology.

Past studies have found very smart people have shown clinical signs of Alzheimer's much later than the general population. Once they do, they decline much faster.

This was thought to reflect their greater mental reserves, but this study indicates their intelligence might be making it harder to judge their mental processes.

"Highly intelligent elders are often told their memory changes are typical of normal aging when they are not," lead author Dorene Rentz, a clinical psychologist with the department of neurology at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, says in a prepared statement. "As a result, they would miss the advantages of disease-modifying medications when they become available."

The researchers believe the findings also could help people at the other end of the scale, with lower standards reducing the chance that someone with below average intelligence would be misdiagnosed as demented.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about Alzheimer's disease.

SOURCES: American Psychological Association, news release, Jan. 4, 2004
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