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Johns Hopkins research may improve early detection of dementia
Date:11/11/2013

researchers determined that lopsidedness in their score distribution correlated with dementia. They predicted that people with low scores that were evenly distributed were not likely to develop dementia. But those with clearly lopsided test score distributions on the 13 measures administered were already experiencing varying levels of dementia.

"Departures from the normal bell-shaped pattern of variability on cognitive tests might determine which people with low scores develop dementia," says David J. Schretlen, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and leader of a study published online Nov. 12 in the journal Neuropsychology.

Since these declines can be subtle, the researchers also increased the precision of cognitive testing by accounting for the effects of age, sex, race and education on test performance.

The challenge for doctors, Schretlen explains, is that most normal, healthy people will produce a few low scores on cognitive testing. That makes it nearly impossible to know at the outset whether a patient who reports forgetfulness and produces one or two low scores has a benign form of mild cognitive impairment, or is in the earliest stage of dementia. As a result, doctors often tell such patients to return for follow-up testing in a year or two.

But if future research confirms it, this new statistical model could help doctors get the prognosis right earlier in the disease, at the first visit, and start treating patients accordingly.

Mostly, Schretlen says, doctors could use the new model to reassure patients who are not at risk of dementia, while fast-tracking interventions for those who are. Because there currently are no effective treatments for Alzheimer's disease, those likely headed that way could be counseled to take the good time they have to organize their affairs, and do things they have always wanted to do. They also could be fas
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Contact: Stephanie Desmon
sdesmon1@jhmi.edu
410-955-8665
Johns Hopkins Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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