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Friends, family detect early Alzheimer's signs better than traditional tests
Date:9/27/2010

Family members and close friends are more sensitive to early signs of Alzheimer's dementia than traditional screening tests, according to researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Doctors often evaluate a person who is having memory problems by testing them with a variety of cognitive tasks, such as recalling a list of words or comparing shapes of objects. Washington University researchers developed a different approach. The two-minute Ascertain Dementia 8 (AD8) questionnaire relies on a friend or family member who knows the person well, known as an informant, to evaluate whether cognitive changes have caused the individual to have difficulties in performing everyday activities.

In the new study, published online in the journal Brain, scientists validated the AD8 by checking to see if it could highlight individuals who had biological indicators, or biomarkers, for Alzheimer's disease, such as abnormal levels of certain factors in the spinal fluid or positive brain scans for Alzheimer's plaques. The AD8's results corresponded with biomarker results more consistently than traditional cognitive tests.

"It's not economically feasible to screen everyone for Alzheimer's disease biomarkers," says John C. Morris, MD, director of the Charles F. and Joanne Knight Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at Washington University School of Medicine. "The AD8 gives us a brief and very low-cost alternative that takes a few minutes of the informant's time to screen for dementia and thus identify those individuals who need follow-up evaluations to determine if there truly are signs of Alzheimer's."

According to Morris, the Harvey A. and Dorismae Hacker Friedman Distinguished Professor of Neurology, the difficulty with traditional early-stage dementia screening tools is that they only give a snapshot of a person's cognitive abilities at one point in time when they're being tested. Asking the individual if his or
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Contact: Michael C. Purdy
purdym@wustl.edu
314-286-0122
Washington University School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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