Your risk of contracting Alzheimer’s disease may be found in tiny purple figures known as Greebles. According to researchers at the University of Louisville, those who are not able to tell which shape is the odd one out in a series of images could be at higher risk of developing this brain disease in future.
Scientists have discovered that those who are genetically more at risk from this degenerative brain disease struggle to spot a subtle difference in one of the images, despite being able to detect minor changes in people’s faces.
Dr. Emily Mason, a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Neurological Surgery at the university, led the research and declared that, “right now, by the time we detect the disease, it would be very difficult to restore function because so much damage has been done to the brain. We want to be able to look at really early, really subtle changes that are going on in the brain. One way we can do that is with cognitive testing that is directed at a very specific area of the brain.
Odd One Out
Volunteers in this study were asked to complete a series of “odd man out” tasks. They were shown sets of four images depicting real-world object, human faces, scenes and Greebles in which one image was marginally different to the others.
Those who are more at risk of getting Alzheimer’s performed similarly to the control group when it came to objects, faces, and scenes. However, for the Greebles, the at-risk group scored lower than the control group.
Dr. Mason said that “most people have never seen a Greeble and Greebles are highly similar, so they are by far the toughest objects to differentiate. What we found is that using this task, we were able to find a significant difference between the at-risk group and the control group. Both groups did get better with practice, but the at-risk group lagged behind the control group throughout the process.”
Dr. Mason would like to see some more research to see whether the individuals who performed poorly actually went on to develop Alzheimer’s. She states the “the best thing we could do is have people take this test in their 40s and 50s, and track them for the next 10 to 20 years to see who eventually develops the disease and who doesn’t.”
Can You Spot the Difference?
Answer: in the above image, Greeble number 4 is the odd one out because its horns and arm are shaped slightly differently to the others.