Do you ever find yourself staring into space for long periods, losing your train of thought, or becoming excessively tired during the day? If so, you may want to check with your doctor. Recent research suggests that these so-called cognitive fluctuations may be more likely to occur in older people who are developing Alzheimer's disease.

Scientists at Washington University in St. Louis looked at data on more than 500 older adults (average age 78) who suffered from memory problems. The subjects were given basic thinking and memory-skills tests, and were also interviewed (along with family members) about daytime sleepiness, disorganized thinking, and "spacing out" for periods of time. The researchers found that those who experienced mental lapses were 4.6 times more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease than the others. About 12 percent of those with more mild dementia experienced mental lapses, and only two people with no dementia at all experienced these mental lapses.

The researchers were careful to explain that just because someone occasionally stares off into space does not mean they definitely will develop Alzheimer's or any other kind of dementia. These mental lapses do occur in healthy older adults. However, repeated episodes of muddled thinking, fatigue or staring into space bear looking into. And while these symptoms often signal a problem, they unfortunately do not provide a definitive diagnosis of Alzheimers or give doctors a clear indication of how far the disease may have progressed.


Source: Washington University,