Your computer usage can predict early signs of Alzheimer's

Your computer knows if you're going to get Alzheimer's

Researchers at Oregon Health and Science University have discovered that infrequent use of a computer may be indicative of an early decline in cognitive abilities among older adults.

For some time, it's been known that the size of an area of the brain called the hippocampus, which is important for memory function, can be used to predict the eventual development of dementia. A smaller hippocampus is a well-known sign of Alzheimer's disease.

Now, in a study involving 27 cognitively-healthy adults aged 65 or older, researchers used an MRI machine to measure the volume of the hippocampus. Data on computer use among the participants was also gathered over a one-month period, using mouse movement detection software.

Lower Hippocampal Volume

Their results show that an extra hour of computer use every day was associated with a .025% larger hippocampal volume. As such, they conclude, low computer use may be able to predict cognitive decline.

It's unclear whether there's a causative relationship at work here, but Lisa Silbert (who led the research) wrote in a paper describing the study: "Successful computer use likely requires the ability to effectively call upon multiple cognitive domains, including executive function, attention, and memory."

The team will continue to follow the study participants to see how their cognitive ability develops in the coming years.

Silbert wrote: "Continuous monitoring of daily computer use may detect signs of preclinical neurodegeneration in older individuals at risk for dementia."

Duncan Geere
Duncan Geere is TechRadar's science writer. Every day he finds the most interesting science news and explains why you should care. You can read more of his stories here, and you can find him on Twitter under the handle @duncangeere.