Researchers from University of Lyon, France devised a driving test to analyze motor and cognitive abilities in patients with Alzheimer’s.
Driving is a complex task that involves perceptual, motor and cognitive abilities. Patients suffering from Alzheimer’s can find driving difficult as these abilities may be affected in such patients. However, most of these patients continue to drive for several years as compared to people suffering from other dementia syndromes. The new research conducted by University of Lyon examined the self-regulation behavior of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s using a naturalistic driving approach. The researchers placed a video recording device behind the rear-view mirror of each driver’s vehicle to explore Alzheimer’s and healthy older drivers. The study included 20 patients with early-stage Alzheimer’s and 20 healthy older adults and two expert psychologists were tasked to assess driving performance of the participants with help of a specially designed Naturalistic Driving Assessment Scale (NaDAS).
The NaDAS observes self-regulation behavior in the drivers that include key indexes such as capacity to adapt driving speed, respect safe distances, change lanes correctly, and appropriately anticipate or plan actions. Furthermore, the technique recorded critical safety events such as accident, near-accident and other incidents related to safety. It was observed that Alzheimer’s patients showed poor self-regulation behavior, as compared to healthy older drivers. Such low self-regulation was evident with several attributes such as reduced capacity to adapt driving speed, ensure safe distances, change lanes, and appropriately anticipate or plan actions. Furthermore, critical events related to safety were twice in Alzheimer’s as compared to healthy older drivers. Several naturalistic driving studies reported that around two thirds of critical events like accident or near- accident incidents were considered “unaware” events. The report suggested that the driver was observed to have no clear reaction during the critical event. It was observed that lower self-regulation levels that led the most critical events were mostly associated with Alzheimer’s patients. The research was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease on May 30, 2018.