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Simple Memory Test May Detect Early Alzheimer's

A brief self-assessment that patients can take in the waiting room may lead to earlier diagnosis, better treatment

THURSDAY, April 8 (HealthDay News) -- A researcher has developed a brief memory test to help doctors determine whether someone is suffering from the early memory and reasoning problems that often signal Alzheimer's disease.

In a study in the journal Alzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders, neurologist Dr. Douglas Scharre of Ohio State University Medical Center reports that the test detected 80 percent of people with mild thinking and memory problems. It only turned up a false positive -- wrongly suggesting that a person has a problem -- in five percent of people with normal thinking.

In a press release, Scharre said the test could help people get earlier care for conditions like Alzheimer's disease.

"It's a recurring problem," he said. "People don't come in early enough for a diagnosis, or families generally resist making the appointment because they don't want confirmation of their worst fears. Whatever the reason, it's unfortunate because the drugs we're using now work better the earlier they are started."

The test can be taken by hand, which Scharre said may help people who aren't comfortable with technology like computers. He's making the tests, which take 15 minutes to complete, available free to health workers at

"They can take the test in the waiting room while waiting for the doctor," Scharre said.

"Abnormal test results can serve as an early warning to the patient's family," added Scharre. "The results can be a signal that caregivers may need to begin closer monitoring of the patient to ensure their safety and good health is not compromised and that they are protected from financial predators."

In the study, 254 people aged 59 and older took the test. Of those, 63 underwent an in-depth clinical evaluation to determine their level of cognitive ability.

More information

The Alzheimer's Association has more on Alzheimer's disease.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: Ohio State University, press release, March 31, 2010

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