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April 27, 2016 4:00 PM EDT

Poor navigational skills could be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study.

Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis suggest that people who have trouble remembering directions in new surroundings may be showing early symptoms of the progressive disease that affects memory. Findings from their small study were published Tuesday in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

“These findings suggest that navigational tasks designed to assess a [mental] mapping strategy could represent a powerful new tool for detecting the very earliest Alzheimer’s disease-related changes in cognition,” the study’s author Denise Head, who is the associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at Washington University, told UPI.

The researchers also noted that having difficulty navigating through new neighborhoods does not necessarily signal Alzheimer’s development.

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