Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
May 10, 2024 ·  3 min read

This Surprising Symptom Can Predict Dementia Up to 12 Years in Advance, Study Says

The eyes are the window to the soul, but this study indicates they may also be a window to the brain, more specifically, the aging brain. Dementia is an umbrella term to describe symptoms of memory loss and other cognitive disabilities. The effects worsen over time, making daily functioning increasingly difficult. Although there is no cure, research shows that there are ways for people with early-onset Alzheimer’s to slow the decline. But it can be difficult to diagnose dementia, especially if the signs are mild. But a study found a new potential way to predict dementia: an eye exam.

Predicting Dementia Through Eye Movement Tests

Photo: analogicus on Pixabay

The study followed 8,623 health people aged 48–92 years old. The participants were analyzed between 2004 and 2011. They took a visual sensitivity test, that involved pressing a button when they saw a triangle form on a screen of moving dots. After over 14 years, the researchers followed up and found that 537 of the subjects had been diagnosed with dementia. They discovered that those who developed dementia were slower to notice the triangle compared to those undiagnosed. 

Read More: 7 Signs That Death May Be Near in Someone With Dementia

Cognitive Decline and Vision Problems

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“Visual issues may be an early indicator of cognitive decline as the toxic amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease may first affect areas of the brain associated with vision, with parts of the brain associated with memory becoming damaged as the disease progresses,” wrote the authors. “So vision tests may find deficits before memory tests do.” This makes these tests possibly capable of predicting dementia before any cognitive symptoms begin to show.

Photo: aritank on Pixabay

The toxic amyloid plaques in the brain that correlate with Alzheimer’s may affect the parts of the brain needed for vision. Difficulties with sight is already documented in Alzheimer’s disease cases. For instance, patients may have trouble discerning between different colors, lose the ability to see the outlines of objects, and recognize faces. Remember, these issues may not be noticable at first, which is why they are hard to diagnose.

The Future of Predicting Dementia

After completing this study, the authors are interested in taking the findings a step further. If visual sensitivity is so intertwined with memory, can people “exercise their eyes” to improve their cognition? Some studies seem to think so although the research on this is overall mixed. More research is also needed to determine how much eye movement “exercise” is needed to be considered effective.

Additionally, the technology used to measure eye tracking is expensive and requires training to operate, making it impractical to use as a regular tool to diagnose early-stage Alzheimers until cheaper and more accessible versions are available.

Read More: New Study: Blood Test Can Predict Dementia 10 Years Before Official Diagnosis

Managing Dementia

Photo: EddieKphoto on Pixabay

Although there is no cure, there are ways to manage — and hopefully slow — the decline of dementia. They often involve treating their cognitive symptoms and helping them continue to function in their day-to-day lives. Some medications may help with symptoms like depression, insomnia, and irritability. There are also different kinds of therapies that work on memory and thinking skills. And although there are no recommended “eye movement exercises” as of yet, experts brain exercises like sudoku, playing music, and practicing language. 

Read More: 10 Ways Photos Help With Dementia Care


  1. “A surprising factor can predict dementia up to 12 years in advance, study finds.Psy Post. Eef Hogervorst, Ahmet Begde, and Thom Wilcockson. May 5, 2024
  2. Visual processing speed and its association with future dementia development in a population-based prospective cohort: EPIC-Norfolk.” PubMed. Ahmet Begde, Thomas Wilcockson, Carol Brayne, Eef Hogervorst. February 29, 2024
  3. “What is Dementia? Association
  4. “What Are the Treatments for Dementia?” WebMD. Maureen Salamon. August 26, 2022