Thursday, January 16, 2014

Brief Self-Exam Helps Detect Cognitive Impairment in Community Settings


A 10- to 15-minute self-administered cognitive examination may be an important tool in detecting cases of mild cognitive impairment in community settings such as health fairs or senior centers, providing a tool for proactively identifying individuals who show early signs of cognitive decline. In a study published in APA's Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences led by Douglas Scharre, M.D., director of the Division of Cognitive Neurology at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, researchers evaluated the functionality of the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination (SAGE) given at 45 community events of different sizes to more than 1,000 individuals over age 50. Cognitive impairment was detected in 28% of the participants.

The researchers note that with "cognitive loss becoming increasingly prevalent in the United States," having tools that allow early detection of mild cognitive impairment and dementia is "critical," since early pharmacological intervention may be able to delay the progress of Alzheimer's and other dementias. The problem, they point out, is that "[U]nfortunately, most cognitively impaired patients do not seek early medical attention, and physicians may not recognize subtle cognitive deficits during routine office visits. Patients typically present to their doctor 3-4 years after symptoms have begun." The success with which the SAGE screening tool detected mild cognitive impairment in a quick, self-administered test that doesn't require computer use suggests that it can overcome "the many obstacles encountered by physicians for early identification" of mild cognitive impairment. Previous studies of community screening have been used to find signs of dementia, but not mild cognitive impairment, the researchers note. They did caution that limitations with the SAGE include that individuals must be literate and have adequate vision and writing skills to answer the questions, and their study had too few minority test takers to generalize about the test in those groups.

Read more about this study in the report "Community Cognitive Screening Using the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination (SAGE)" Also see the Psychiatric News article "Mild Cognitive Disorder Added to DSM."

(image: pixsooz/Shutterstock.com)

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