This story parrots a news release that itself misstates the conclusions and meaning of the study. It would be almost impossible for readers to learn anything useful from the report.
Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease and the threat of it haunts many older adults, especially those with mild cognitive deficits. The dual possibility of a method to identify those at risk for developing dementia early along with the ongoing efforts to develop anti amyloid treatments offer great hope. Providing overly enthusiastic reviews serves no useful purpose other than to confuse the reader.
The cost of PET scans is not explained – and it is significant – ranging from $3,000 to $6,000.
The story implies there are benefits, but does not explain what they might be. There’s this statement from the principal investigator, “This provides an enormous opportunity for understanding the development of early Alzheimer’s disease and even a sound basis for the assessment of plaque-targeting therapies.” Without some additional information, such as the general availability of “plaque targeting therapies” the reader is left with an incomplete story.
There is no discussion of the potential harms of testing.
The story should have at least indicated that there is radiation involved.
The lead sentence says beta amyloid plaques in the brain “may trigger” more memory loss than a genetic risk factor linked to Alzheimer’s disease. The last sentence notes that this study did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship. Indeed, even if higher levels of beta amyloid plaques are associated with cognitive decline, it is still possible that the plaque levels are a symptom, rather than a cause of the disease process. This study wasn’t designed to demonstrate a cause-and-effect relationship, so the story should not have suggested one.
This story muddles the important distinction between the mere presence of beta amyloid plaques in the brain and actual dementia.
It appears that no one was interviewed for this story. The quotes came from a news release.
There is no discussion of standard techniques for assessing signs of cognitive decline or dementia.
The story does not discuss whether this sort of PET scan is available outside of research settings.
There is no discussion of the broader context of research in this area.
The story appears to be based entirely on a new release. There is a note at the bottom of the story saying the source is an American Academy of Neurology news release. But many may not understand that the note means there was no real reporting involved.
What’s more, the first quote is not labeled as coming from the news release.