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First signs of Alzeimer's found with 15 minute 'selfie' test


A 15-minute “selfie” test conducted at home can indicate early signs of mental decline that might be the first glimmer of Alzheimer’s.

US researchers who asked more than 1,000 people aged 50 and older to take the self-adminstered Sage test found that 28% had cognitive impairment, a mild loss of mental functioning.

The results closely matched those from detailed diagnostic tests carried out by experts.

Dr Douglas Scharre, who helped develop the test at Ohio State University, said: “What we found was that this Sage self-administered test correlated very well with detailed cognitive testing.

“If we catch this cognitive change really early, then we can start potential treatments much earlier than without having this test.”

The test can be taken at home by patients and the results shared with physicians to help them spot early symptoms of dementia, said Dr Scharre, director of Ohio State University’s Division of Cognitive Neurology.

While the Sage test cannot diagnose patients’ problems, it gives doctors a “baseline” of mental function so that progressive changes can be tracked over time.

“We can give them the test periodically and, the moment we notice any changes in their cognitive abilities, we can intervene much more rapidly,” said Dr Scharre.

Earlier research showed that the test can detect four out of five people with mild thinking and memory issues. All but around 5% of those without problems will have normal Sage scores.

Participants in the new study were recruited from a variety of community locations and events including senior citizens’ centres, health fairs, educational talks, and free memory screening advertised in newspapers.

Volunteers were tested on mental orientation, language, reasoning, spatial ability, problem solving and memory.

Dr Simon Ridley, from the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Further research is needed to confirm whether the Sage test would be suitable to assess and track changes in people’s memory and thinking skills.

“One drawback of this study is that the test was not compared with other existing cognitive tests. It’s important to note that the test is not designed to diagnose dementia, and people who are worried about their memory should seek advice from a doctor rather than attempting self-diagnosis with a test at home.

“There is currently not enough evidence to suggest that dementia screening for people who do not have memory concerns would be beneficial.”

Dr Doug Brown, director of research and development at the Alzheimer’s Society, added: “This is an interesting development, but currently home tests are not a reliable way of diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease, or other forms of dementia.

“Dementia and mild cognitive Impairment are difficult to diagnose, and we need to continue to fund more research into tests like this and other ways that may help improve the accuracy and ease of diagnosis.”


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Readers' comments (16)

  • michael stone

    I've not tried this test.

    However, I know that when I was in my late teens and early 20s, I could manipulate sets of numbers in my head, in a way I could no longer do by the time I was 40+. Although that, I think, is not related to the type of developing dementia of concern here.

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  • I couldn't do the mental arithmetic question they gave on the radio this morning but then I would never have been able to do it! I need time to think and work it out or else write it down and do it that way which is what I usually do.

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  • Tried it. Apart from the one on American currencies (what the hell is a nickel anyway?) it was a doddle.

    It certainly needs adapting for UK use. And what is its power to discriminate between dementia and mere mental dullness or some forms of dyslexia?

    Need more info before I'd be willing to adopt this for my patients.

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  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 14-Jan-2014 10:19 am

    'what the hell is a nickel anyway?'

    As a Brit, it appears to me to be an incorrect spelling of the name of a metal ?

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  • Dimess and Nickels - US coinage. but why should Brits be expected to know this? Do they suffer from dementia if they can't answer the question?

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  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 14-Jan-2014 2:07 pm

    Just completed a snap survey:

    83% of all Americans are demented, because they can't rank in monetary order correctly the tanner, crown and guinea (the other 17% guessed right).

    Most Brits fail the same test.

    We are all barmy, no ?!

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  • tinkerbell

    By the time someone cannot do one of these tests they are already showing signs of cognitive impairment. Most people with mild impairment can get through these tests.

    I tend to agree with studies that suggest the impairment starts some 20 to30 years before you showed marked signs.

    I'm theorising memory decline is much more subtle in the decades before. I think it is the gap between the recall of something that wouldnormally come naturally to you. No proof, just my theory.

    Doing these memory tests regularly with my patients, with their approval, today I had a significant (to me) memory lapse.

    I am not inclined to automatically deduce because I can't remember something that I have the beginning of dementia,(junior doctors syndrome) but today discussing with a patient where they came from, 'London' , I replied I was born in London'. Whereabouts' they asked, I went to reply but nothing came. For the life of me I couldn't remember and said so to fill the gap in conversation. I said to my patient and the home nurse sat with us 'that's worrying isn't it?' We laughed about it, but..................................then the patient said 'I've had enough of this test' and I said 'so have I, let's not push it'.
    Then she remembered her husbands name, which she couldn't initially and I remembered where I was born.

    Maybe we were both a wee bit stressed but
    I'm glad we both arrived at our destination for finding the answers to what was significant to us both.

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  • Tinkerbell

    on that premise I have had cognitive impairment all my life!

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  • michael stone

    tinkerbell | 14-Jan-2014 9:59 pm

    Your speculation about timescales could well be right.

    After I wrote it (an earlier comment), I realised that my brain has gone a while ago - for some reason the 'spelling part' of my brain, was telling me that nickel is spelt nickle, which it isn't: not that I've done any chemistry for decades, that is troubling considering that I've got a doctorate in chemistry !

    Does [actively] worrying that you are going barmy, speed up the rate of deterioration ?

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  • tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 14-Jan-2014 11:03 pm

    michael stone | 15-Jan-2014 11:20 am

    Perhaps we could all benefit from a 'shut down' and 'reboot' from time to time. Have you tried turning it off and turning it on again?

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