Monday , March 1 2021

New digital test promises early detection of dementia

The new Integrated Cognitive Assessment can be used as a valid and reliable tool for assessing a person's cognitive performance.

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An easy-to-use computerized test that measures the speed and accuracy of a person's ability to choose animals in photographs may be a more effective tool for detecting early signs of dementia than common pen and paper tests, according to a new study. . .

The study, published in the journal Nature on Thursday, shows that the visual processing test, called Integrated Cognitive Assessment, can be used as a valid and reliable tool for assessing a person's cognitive performance. This test was developed by the British company Cognetivity Inc., which has its North American headquarters in Vancouver.

Nature's authors, including Cognetivity's executive director Sina Habibi, point out that current tests routinely used to screen for neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's and other types of dementia depend on language skills and education of users. This means that patients who do not speak English as a first language, for example, may not perform well if they are tested in English rather than in their native language. In addition, standard pen and paper tests typically "suffer from a learning bias," the authors wrote. That is, patient scores can improve with practice and therefore may not reflect changes in their brain functions.

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These current paper-based tests include the Mini Mental State Exam, the Addenbrooke Cognitive Exam, and the Montreal Cognitive Assessment. The latest test, developed by neurologist Ziad Nasreddine in Montreal, drew considerable media attention last year when US President Donald Trump passed the article with a perfect score. It involves a number of tasks, such as drawing a clock and naming animals.

To address the shortcomings of these conventional tests, several digital cognitive screening tests have emerged as potential substitutes – among them, the Cognitive Integrated Cognitive Assessment.

"What we really hope to have developed here and believe we developed here is a very useful tool that can make a significant difference," said Thomas Sawyer, chief operating officer at Cognetivity. "It is easy to administer, it is free from many other problems [associated with standard screening tests], then we think it is a very significant tool that can be used to help achieve [an] early diagnosis. "

The test involves participants seeing a series of black-and-white photographs that flicker for 100 milliseconds on an iPad. Participants are invited to touch the left or right side of the screen depending on whether they see the image of an animal in the photograph.

In the Nature study, the researchers asked 448 participants to take the test. They then compared the participants' test results with a series of standard paper and pen tests.

Dr. Habibi and Sawyer explained that their test is based on research that shows that problems in visual processing may be a sign of dementia rather than memory problems that not only come later but also tend to be subjective. Once the level of difficulty of recognizing animals in photographs varies, ranging from a bear in the center of the photo to a bird in a shrub, the test can be used to detect those who have cognitive impairment too soon.

Habibi said his company tool should be used as part of a regular medical examination. If the patient's computer-generated scores fall into the red or yellow zone, the doctor may request that they take the test again or send them to a memory or specialist clinic for further tests, including MRI, to reach a diagnosis. .

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"Dementia, the diagnosis of Alzheimer's at the moment is very, very difficult and it's very expensive," said Dr. Habibi. By providing an easy way to track patients, he hopes individuals with dementia can be diagnosed much sooner.

He added that the tool could also be used in research to test how participants respond to various treatments. The company will seek approval from Health Canada following a clinical validation study, expected to be completed early in 2020.

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