The researchers used a variety of transgenic mice for their study, which have been treated with mutations that create Alzheimer-like conditions in them. These so-called "PDAPP mice" have been used for years in studies around Alzheimer's. Morris thinks a constructive use for animals such as mice in Alzheimer's research might be to use them to identify these "really subtle, cryptic effects" of the disease that are not so easily seen in humans.
So Morris and his colleagues took healthy mice, and a group of mice in the very early stages of their Alzheimer's-like condition, and trained them to navigate their way to a hidden pool of water, using a series of signs and markers.
They then tested both mouse groups a week later, and noticed two striking differences.
First, the Alzheimer's group did significantly worse on the test — they were mostly unable to remember the location of the water dish.
Secondly the mice in the Alzheimer's group showed a remarkable drop in amount of the glucose, a type of sugar, their brains were taking up — a key measure of how much energy the brains were using.