One TYM question, for instance, might be to name four animals beginning with the letter "S," Brown said.
It took people who had no history of mental problems about five minutes to complete the test. Their average score was 47. However, people with Alzheimer's took longer to finish the test and earned an average score of 33. People with mild cognitive impairment had an average score of 45, the researchers found.
The TYM identified 93 percent of those with Alzheimer's, whereas the mini-mental state examination identified only 52 percent of the people with Alzheimer's -- suggesting that the TYM test is more sensitive in detecting mild Alzheimer's disease. In addition, Brown said, the TYM takes less time to do than the mini-mental state examination, though it tests a wider range of cognitive areas.
The Addenbrooke's cognitive examination tests a similar number of cognitive areas and is sensitive to mild Alzheimer's, but it takes 20 minutes to take and score, he said.
Dr. Claire Nicholl, a consultant physician in medicine for the elderly at Addenbrooke's Hospital and author of an accompanying editorial in the journal, noted that cognitive tests can be helpful, but they're just part of the full work-up needed to determine the cause of someone's problem.
"If a person is developing dementia, they have difficulties in addition to poor short-term memory, for example with language and orientation," Nicholl said. "Tests such as the TYM explore these in a brief but structured way."
However, there's no one ideal test, and the best test will depend on the setting, she said. "The tests are part of the clinical evaluation," Nicholl said. "It is still necessary to take a history and examine the patient and to consider problems that may affec
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