The children of Alzheimer’s sufferers can develop memory problems much earlier than previously believed, according to a large new study. Boston University researchers administered memory tests to a group of middle-aged people, all of whom carried a gene linked to Alzheimer’s, but only half of whom had parents suffering from the disease. That half performed drastically worse, the Boston Globe reports.
“How big an effect we saw was surprising,” said the study’s senior author. “It was like you were comparing two groups, 55-year-olds to 70-year-olds.” Other neurologists say the study could be a major breakthrough, because it’s the first to demonstrate the changes in cognitive ability at such an early age. Alzheimer’s typically isn’t confirmed until around age 75, after much of the damage is done.