Study Finds Self-Administered Cognition Test Can Predict Early Signs of Dementia Sooner

Although the test does not definitively diagnose problems such as Alzheimer disease, it helps physicians get a baseline of their patients’ cognitive functioning.

A new study suggests that a self-administered test can identify the early signs of dementia sooner than the most used office-based standard cognitive test.

The Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination (SAGE) test, created by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, College of Medicine, and College of Public Health, may be effective in treatment, especially when new therapeutics for dementia and Alzheimer are being developed, according to the study authors.

“New disease modifying therapies are available and others are currently being evaluated in clinical trials, and we know that the earlier cognitive impairment is detected, the more treatment choices a patient has and the better the treatments work,” said lead study author Douglas Scharre, MD, director of the Division of Cognitive Neurology at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, in a press release.

Although the test does not definitively diagnose problems such as Alzheimer disease, it helps physicians get a baseline of their patients’ cognitive functioning. Repeat testing can further allow them to follow their memory and thinking abilities over time, according to the study.

“Often primary care physicians may not recognize subtle cognitive deficits during routine office visits,” Scharre said in the press release.

In the 8-year study, 665 consecutive patients in Ohio State’s Center for Cognitive and Memory Disorders were analyzed. The research team found that the SAGE test accurately identified patients with mild cognitive impairment who eventually progressed to a dementia diagnosis at least 6 months earlier than the other testing method, known as the Mini-Mental State Examination, according to the study.

Of 164 patients with baseline mild cognitive impairment, 70 patients converted to dementia, which is a 43% conversion rate over 3 to 4 years, similar to rates from other academic center-based studies, according to Scharre. Further, the distribution of dementia diagnoses included 70% Alzheimer disease dementia, 7% Lewy body dementia, and 9% pure or mixed vascular dementia, according to the study authors.

The test can be taken anywhere, taking approximately 10 to 15 minutes to complete. Additionally, the 4 interchangeable forms are designed to reduce learning effects from recurrent testing over time. The cognitive domains tested with the 11-item test include orientation, language, calculations, memory, abstraction, executive function, and constructional abilities.

“Any time you or your family member notices a change in your brain function or personality you should take this test,” Scharre said in the press release. “If that person takes the test every six months and their score drops two or three points over a year and a half, that is a significant difference, and their doctor can use that information to get a jump on identifying the causes of the cognitive loss and to make treatment decisions.”

Scharre added that based on cognitive score changes, clinicians and families may decide it is time to act on safety and supervision needs.

“This might include, for example, medication oversight, financial assistance, driving limitations, setting up durable Powers of Attorney and other legal arrangements/trusts, change in living arrangements, and enhanced caregiving support,” Scharre said in the press release.

REFERENCE

Self-administered cognition test predicts early signs of dementia sooner. The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. December 6, 2021. Accessed December 7, 2021. https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/mediaroom/pressreleaselisting/sage-test