A new home-based computer tool created by Georgia Tech researchers will allow adults to self-screen for early signs of dementia. The software was inspired by a commonly-used Clock Drawing Test, a paper-and-pencil screening tool used to test for cognitive impairment. ClockReader is one of the first technology tools to assess cognitive abilities which can be shared with clinicians.
The ClockReader test is performed with a stylus and computer or tablet, such as an iPad. The participant draws a clock with numbers and hands in the correct spots, as instructed; the software checks for 13 traits, including correct number placement and correct hand placement. Participants who have some level of cognitive impairment typically draw on a clock face with either too many or too few numbers, with digits misplaces, and/or incorrect time indicated.
The accompanying software system ClockAnalyzer scores the test, notes the duration of the test, and even notes the time taken between each stroke. The software replays the participant’s test in real time, allowing the clinician to observe the drawing as it is created. The researchers at Georgia tech have yet to make the ClockReader available for the public; the research for the project was supported by the National Science Foundation.
In the UK, an early warning test for Alzheimer’s has been developed that can be taken online in just 15 minutes. The Cognitive Function Test spots early signs of the degenerative brain disease via an interactive quiz, then provides instant results and lifestyle advice to participants. While some types of dementia are not reversible, it is currently believed the brain shrinkage which is linked to Alzheimer’s can be delayed by up to five years with a vitamin regimen. The at-home test follows a study published by Oxford University which reports that a vitamin regimen of several vitamin B supplements may halt brain shrinkage by up to 500 per cent.
“More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease,” says Waxahachie elder law attorney John Hale. “And one of the tragedies around the disease is that we still know so little about how to halt it.”
The test can measure mild cognitive impairment which may indicate incipient Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers are still working on identifying all the triggers, genetic and biological, that cause Alzheimer’s disease.