staying powerALZHEIMERS

Brain Trust

UHS and Binghamton University research could pave way for Alzheimer’s test

An estimated 5.2 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and that number is expected to rise precipitously. Yet, there is no single diagnostic test that shows whether an individual has the disease.

“While physicians can and do make a ‘clinical diagnosis’ of Alzheimer’s disease based on the patient’s history, physical exam and screening tests, a definitive diagnosis isn’t possible without pathological analysis of the brain,” explains Shawn Berkowitz, MD, director of Geriatrics at UHS.

Dr. Berkowitz hopes to change that one day. He is working with J. David Schaffer, PhD, a professor of bioengineering at Binghamton University, to determine if a speech-based diagnostic test can be developed to identify Alzheimer’s. The project is a personal one for Schaffer, whose wife contracted early-onset Alzheimer’s.

BRAINTRUSTquoteAccording to Dr. Schaffer and Dr. Berkowitz, certain speech defects (called aphasias) are associated with different kinds of dementias, and literature suggests that some of these aphasias might have prognostic or diagnostic ability. “From there, it’s not too far a stretch to think we might be able to develop a diagnostic test for early-stage dementia based on speech samples,” says Dr. Schaffer.

While this project is the first collaboration between Dr. Schaffer and Dr. Berkowitz, UHS and Binghamton University have a long history of partnership. “From a healthcare perspective, UHS and BU are a perfect marriage,” remarks Dr. Berkowitz.

Volunteers with a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of Alzheimer’s type dementia who are in the early stages of the disease are encouraged to participate in the study. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. in the Social Work Department at BU at 280-1433.