PARIS -- Scientists in Australia are reporting encouraging early results from a simple eye test they hope will give a noninvasive way to detect signs of Alzheimer's disease.

It has been tried on just a small number of people and more research is needed, but the experimental test has a solid basis: Alzheimer's is known to cause changes in the eyes, not just the brain. Scientists in the United States also are working on an eye test for detecting the disease.

A separate study found that falls might be an early warning sign of Alzheimer's.

People who seemed to have healthy minds but who were discovered to have hidden plaques clogging their brains were five times more likely to fall during the study than those without these brain deposits, which are a hallmark of Alzheimer's.

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Both studies were discussed yesterday at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in France.

Alzheimer's, the most common form of dementia, has no cure and drugs only temporarily ease symptoms. Brain scans can find evidence of Alzheimer's a decade or more before it causes memory and thinking problems, but they're too expensive and impractical for routine use. -- AP