This site is intended for health professionals only

New test could help diagnose early dementia

A new cognitive test for detecting Alzheimer's disease is quicker and more accurate than many current tests, and could help diagnose early dementia, concludes a study published on today.
An estimated 24 million people throughout the world have dementia and the number affected will double every 20 years. Early diagnosis is crucial to effective treatment, but there is no available short cognitive test that is quick to use, examines various skills, and is sensitive to Alzheimer's disease.

So researchers at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge designed and evaluated a new cognitive test, the TYM ("test your memory"), in the detection of Alzheimer's disease.

The TYM is a series of 10 tasks including ability to copy a sentence, semantic knowledge, calculation, verbal fluency and recall ability. The ability to do the test is also scored. Each task carries a score with a maximum score of 50 points available. The test is designed to use minimal operator time and to be suitable for non-specialist use.

The mini-mental state examination has been the standard short cognitive test for 30 years and is the main test chosen by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) for deciding which patients should receive drugs and for monitoring their response to treatment.

The TYM detected 93% of patients with Alzheimer's disease, while the mini-mental state examination detected only 52% of patients, suggesting that the TYM test is a much more sensitive tool for detecting mild Alzheimer's disease. Compared to the mini-mental state examination, the TYM also takes less time to administer and tests a wider range of cognitive domains.

The Addenbrooke's cognitive examination tests a similar number of cognitive domains to the TYM and is sensitive to mild Alzheimer's disease, but it takes 20 minutes to administer and score.

The TYM is a powerful and valid screening test for the detection of Alzheimer's disease, conclude the authors.


Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"With the Dementia Strategy in place highlighting dementia and improving awareness, this and any other tool which brings good results for this ever-growing issue I think can only be a good thing." - Kim, Wigan

"I think the test should not replace the mini-mental state examination. How many 60-year-olds will be able to recall a sentence accurately? Not many! Stop reinventing the wheel. Many people try very hard to hide their mild cognitive impairment. Attempting to test them is a no go area. A
clinical blood test needs inventing which will identify biological markers of grey cell degradation. This is the way forward and a 2020 goal. Stick with MMS and outcome. Stop trying to invent more tests its becoming a SATS with all its implications" - Carl Curtis, London

"This is good news for many in our population and hopefully will lead to better care and understanding" - Kathy French, Bromley