At-home test can spot early Alzheimer's

January 13, 2014
The first at-home test to spot early signs of conditions like Alzheimer's disease has been developed by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. The Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination test, has been shown to be effective in spotting the early signs of cognitive decline, allowing patients and doctors to address conditions like Alzheimer's disease much earlier. Credit: Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

The Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination (SAGE test), which takes less than 15 minutes to complete, is a reliable tool for evaluating cognitive abilities. Findings by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center confirming the feasibility and efficiency of the tool for community screening large numbers of people are published in the January issue of The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences.

Memory disorders researchers visited 45 community events where they asked people to take a simple, self-administered test to screen for early cognitive loss or dementia. Of the 1047 people who took the simple pen-and-paper test, 28 percent were identified with , said Dr. Douglas Scharre, who developed the test with his team at Ohio State.

The SAGE test can also be taken at home by patients, who can then share the results with their physicians to help spot early symptoms of cognitive issues such as early dementia or Alzheimer's disease, said Scharre, who is director of the Division of Cognitive Neurology and heads the Memory Disorders Research Center at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center. Often physicians may not recognize subtle cognitive deficits during routine office visits, he said.

"What we found was that this SAGE self-administered test correlated very well with detailed cognitive testing," Scharre said. "If we catch this cognitive change really early, then we can start potential treatments much earlier than without having this test."

While the test does not diagnose problems like Alzheimer's, it does allow doctors to get a baseline of cognitive function in their patients, so they can follow them for these problems over time. "We can give them the test periodically and, the moment we notice any changes in their , we can intervene much more rapidly," Scharre said.

The video will load shortly
Researchers have developed an at-home test that can help doctors spot early symptoms of cognitive issues in their patients, like Alzheimer's disease. Best of all, the test is cheap, self-administered, and a new study shows, can be just as effective as other costlier and more time-consuming tests. Credit: Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

The SAGE test could also provide health care providers and caregivers an earlier indication of life-changing events that could lie ahead. Earlier research by Scharre found that four out of five people (80 percent) with mild thinking and memory (cognitive) issues will be detected by this test, and 95 percent of people without issues will have normal SAGE scores.

In this study, researchers found that SAGE's self-administered feature, pen-and-paper format, and four equivalent interchangeable forms allows it to be given in almost any setting, doesn't require any staff time to administer or to set up a computer, and makes it practical to rapidly screen large numbers of individuals in the community at the same time.

Study participants were ages 50 or older who had been recruited from a wide variety of community locations and events, including senior centers, health fairs, educational talks to lay public, independent and assisted-living facilities, and free memory screens through newspaper advertisement. The study excluded individuals who indicated that they had taken SAGE previously.

Participants are tested on orientation (month + date + year); language (verbal fluency + picture naming); reasoning/computation (abstraction + calculation); visuospatial (three-dimensional construction + clock drawing); executive (problem solving) and memory abilities.

Participants were provided their score and written information about SAGE, and were advised to show it to their physician for interpretation and potential further screening or evaluation based on their health history. All were told that this test represented their baseline to be compared to future re-screening by their physician. Missing six or more points on the 22-point SAGE test usually warrants additional follow-up by the physician.

The video will load shortly
Researchers have developed an at-home test that can help doctors spot early symptoms of cognitive issues in their patients, like Alzheimer's disease. Best of all, the test is cheap, self-administered, and a new study shows, can be just as effective as other costlier and more time-consuming tests. Credit: Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

Scharre, who specializes in treating Alzheimer's disease, said treatments for Alzheimer's and dementia are more effective when started in the earliest stage of the disease. Unfortunately, patients with Alzheimer's disease often wait three to four years after their symptoms first appear to seek treatment.

Some 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, and those numbers are expected to almost triple by 2050. An additional 3 percent to 22 percent of those over 60 years of age are thought to currently meet criteria for Mild Cognitive Impairment as well, Scharre said.

"Hopefully, this will help change those situations," Scharre said. "We are finding better treatments, and we know that patients do much better if they start the treatments sooner than later."

Explore further: New research may improve early detection of dementia

Related Stories

New research may improve early detection of dementia

November 12, 2013
Using scores obtained from cognitive tests, Johns Hopkins researchers think they have developed a model that could help determine whether memory loss in older adults is benign or a stop on the way to Alzheimer's disease.

Underactive thyroid not linked to memory problems

December 30, 2013
(HealthDay)—Hypothyroidism, a condition that causes low or no thyroid hormone production, is not linked to mild dementia or impaired brain function, a new study suggests.

USPSTF: Evidence lacking for cognitive impairment testing

October 22, 2013
(HealthDay)—Screening instruments can detect dementia but there is insufficient evidence to determine the clinical effect of screening and interventions, according to a review conducted for the U.S. Preventive Services ...

Ohio State implants first brain pacemaker to treat Alzheimer's

January 23, 2013
During a five-hour surgery last October at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Kathy Sanford became the first Alzheimer's patient in the United States to have a pacemaker implanted in her brain.

New study announced that will use genetics to test for Alzheimer's risk

July 19, 2012
In a new Alzheimer's disease risk assessment study unveiled this week during the Alzheimer's Association International Conference, researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) are offering genetic testing and Alzheimer's ...

Recommended for you

Lifestyle changes to stave off Alzheimer's? Hints, no proof

July 20, 2017
There are no proven ways to stave off Alzheimer's, but a new report raises the prospect that avoiding nine key risks starting in childhood just might delay or even prevent about a third of dementia cases around the world.

Blood test identifies key Alzheimer's marker

July 19, 2017
A new study led by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis suggests that measures of amyloid beta in the blood have the potential to help identify people with altered levels of amyloid in their ...

Steering an enzyme's 'scissors' shows potential for stopping Alzheimer's disease

July 19, 2017
The old real estate adage about "location, location, location" might also apply to the biochemical genesis of Alzheimer's disease, according to new research from the University of British Columbia.

Brain scans may change care for some people with memory loss

July 19, 2017
Does it really take an expensive brain scan to diagnose Alzheimer's? Not everybody needs one but new research suggests that for a surprising number of patients whose memory problems are hard to pin down, PET scans may lead ...

Can poor sleep boost odds for Alzheimer's?

July 18, 2017
(HealthDay)— Breathing problems during sleep may signal an increased risk for Alzheimer's disease, a trio of studies suggests.

Hearing is believing: Speech may be a clue to mental decline

July 17, 2017
Your speech may, um, help reveal if you're uh ... developing thinking problems. More pauses, filler words and other verbal changes might be an early sign of mental decline, which can lead to Alzheimer's disease, a study suggests.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.