Simple test may predict cognitive impairment long before symptoms appear

In people with no thinking and memory problems, a simple test may predict the risk of developing cognitive impairment years later, according to a study published in the April 19, 2023, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

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“There is increasing evidence that some people with no thinking and memory problems may actually have very subtle signs of early cognitive impairment,” said study author Ellen Grober, PhD, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York. “In our study, a sensitive and simple memory test predicted the risk of developing cognitive impairment in people who were otherwise considered to have normal cognition.”

The study involved 969 people with an average age of 69 with no thinking or memory problems at the start of the study. They were given a simple memory test and were followed for up to 10 years.

The test includes two phases. For the study phase, people are shown four cards, each with drawings of four items. They are asked to identify the item belonging to a particular category. For example, participants would name the item “grapes” after being asked to identify a “fruit.” For the test phase, participants are first asked to recall the items. This measures their ability to retrieve information. Then, for items they did not remember, they are given category cues. This phase measures memory storage.

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