A CHEAP and simple brain scan could soon screen people for dementia years before symptoms develop.

It relies on changes in the way speech is processed – which may be one of the first signs of decline in mental function, leading to Alzheimer’s disease.

And the breakthrough could eventually lead to early signs of the condition being picked up in a portable ten minute test.

Usually, by the time people are diagnosed the neurological condition has reached a devastating stage.

Identifying it sooner could make therapies more effective, and lead to lifestyle changes that slow down onset of the illness.

Dr Claude Alain, of the University of Toronto, said: “This opens a new door in identifying biological markers for dementia since we might consider using the brain’s processing of speech sounds as a new way to detect the disease earlier.

“Losing the ability to communicate is devastating and this finding could lead to the development of targeted treatments or interventions to maintain this capability and slow progression of the disease.”

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