John O'Connor
John O’Connor

Would you want to know if Alzheimer’s disease is starting to feast on your brain? It turns out the answer soon might be in your hands.

As my colleague Diane Eastabrook reported earlier this week, a new smartphone app soon might be able to help provide an answer, while you wait.

University of California at San Diego reseachers developed this brilliant new tool, which uses the near-infrared camera built into newer smartphones to record eyeball closeups. When pupil-size changes are detected, that can be an early warning that cognitive changes already are underway.

“We hope that this opens the door to novel explorations of using smartphones to detect and monitor potential health problems earlier on,” said Colin Barry, a UC San Diego electrical and computer engineering Ph.D. student and study co-author. No doubt about it, that can be a very good development.

But back to my earlier question: Would you want to know if your brain already was being destroyed by Alzheimer’s — or some other incurable malady?

There is no right or wrong answer here, but I’d prefer continued ignorance. After all, the disease is going to run its course regardless. Knowing there’s a wrecking ball doing its nasty business between my ears would just be one more thing to worry about.

Now if there was a cure available, well that’s a different story. In that case, sign me up for daily scans.

I realize others may feel 180 degrees the other way. And that’s fine, too. New knowledge certainly can improve life quality. It’s the reason we no longer need rocks and spears to find dinner.

But maybe there are some things we’re better off not knowing.

John O’Connor is editorial director of McKnight’s Senior Living and its sister media brands, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, which focuses on skilled nursing, and McKnight’s Home Care. Read more of his columns here.