New dementia tool lets takers test their own memories

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When it comes to detecting dementia, a successful new tool being developed by British researchers lets people test themselves.

The test is called “Test Your Memory,” or TYM for short. It is a simple questionnaire that people can take and complete on their own. In initial trials, it is faster and more accurate than other current tests, according to researchers at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge. Despite its early success, however, researchers note that it has only been tried in one clinical setting, and many further studies are needed to conclusively prove its efficacy. Also, the results of the questionnaire, while generally perceived as accurate and a good indicator of dementia risk, still need to be interpreted by a professional, according to the research team.

In the first trial, 540 healthy people aged 18 to 95 completed the questionnaire. As a control, researchers also asked 139 people with confirmed cases of either Alzheimer's disease or mild dementia to take the test. The healthy cohort took about five minutes to complete the test, scoring an average of 47 points out of 50. Those with Alzheimer's disease scored an average of 33 points, and took longer to complete to test. The exam comprises a series of word recall, verbal fluency and sentence copying questions. Interpretations of the results of the test identified 93% of those with Alzheimer's, compared to 52% identified by the more commonly used mini-mental state examination.

Doctors at Addenbrooke note that, while the test can be an important part of identifying and diagnosis Alzheimer's and dementia, physician evaluations and patient histories should not be overlooked. The results of this study appear in the Jun 9 online edition of BMJ.