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New Tool for Rapid Screening of Dementia Shows Promise
Date:11/10/2010

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 10 (HealthDay News) -- In an effort to improve screening for dementia and mild cognitive impairment among seniors, a team of researchers has developed a test designed to spot problems in thinking, learning and memory skills in under three minutes.

Dubbed "The Sweet 16" for its 16-point scale, the test appears to quickly uncover telltale signs of dementia through a cognition ranking system that grades mental skills from a low of zero up to a high of 16.

The study team cautions that the test requires further scrutiny to establish its reliability, particularly as it compares to a well-established measure of cognitive impairment -- the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) -- now currently in widespread use.

But if early positive results hold up, its creators hope that this new diagnostic tool will eventually boost the ability of physicians to identify the onset of dementia among older Americans.

"For many older adults, cognitive impairment contributes to loss of independence, decreased quality of life and increased health-care costs," the study authors, led by Dr. Tamara G. Fong, of Hebrew SeniorLife, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston, said in a news release.

"While the public health impact of cognitive impairment is clear, this condition is often under-recognized," the researchers added. "A simple, rapid cognitive assessment instrument is therefore a valuable tool for use in both clinical and research settings."

Fong and her team outline their new screening method online in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The authors note that currently an estimated 3.4 million American seniors are diagnosed with dementia, while another 5.4 million are suffering from mild forms of cognitive impairment.

Fong and her team also point out that efforts to screen for either condition are imperfect under the M
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