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Nat Rev Neurol. 2018 Aug;14(8):496-506. doi: 10.1038/s41582-018-0031-x.

Spatial navigation deficits - overlooked cognitive marker for preclinical Alzheimer disease?

Author information

Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK.
Memory Clinic, Department of Neurology, Charles University, Second Faculty of Medicine and Motol University Hospital, Prague, Czech Republic.
International Clinical Research Center, St. Anne's University Hospital Brno, Brno, Czech Republic.
Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK.
Dementia and Complexity in Later Life, NHS Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust, Norfolk, UK.


Detection of incipient Alzheimer disease (AD) pathophysiology is critical to identify preclinical individuals and target potentially disease-modifying therapies towards them. Current neuroimaging and biomarker research is strongly focused in this direction, with the aim of establishing AD fingerprints to identify individuals at high risk of developing this disease. By contrast, cognitive fingerprints for incipient AD are virtually non-existent as diagnostics and outcomes measures are still focused on episodic memory deficits as the gold standard for AD, despite their low sensitivity and specificity for identifying at-risk individuals. This Review highlights a novel feature of cognitive evaluation for incipient AD by focusing on spatial navigation and orientation deficits, which are increasingly shown to be present in at-risk individuals. Importantly, the navigation system in the brain overlaps substantially with the regions affected by AD in both animal models and humans. Notably, spatial navigation has fewer verbal, cultural and educational biases than current cognitive tests and could enable a more uniform, global approach towards cognitive fingerprints of AD and better cognitive treatment outcome measures in future multicentre trials. The current Review appraises the available evidence for spatial navigation and/or orientation deficits in preclinical, prodromal and confirmed AD and identifies research gaps and future research priorities.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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