London: A simple ten-minute memory test will effectively screen patients for early signs of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, allowing faster treatment.
The CANTABmobile test distinguishes between normal forgetfulness and the more dangerous memory lapses that can signal dementia.
The test has been made available for use in GPs’ surgeries, according to the Daily Mail.
Early diagnosis would allow patients to receive drug treatment when it would help them the most, letting them work and live independently for longer.
Barbara Sahakian, the Cambridge University professor who helped develop the test, said that to catch people before the brain became too badly damaged, the computer program should be used to screen everyone over 65.
Using a touch-screen computer or iPad, patients complete six tasks in which they memorise the location of an object and then recall the position a few second later.
Questions on how well the patient manages in day-to-day life are included, as well as some designed to pick up those who may be depressed, rather than on the road to dementia.
The quick test is designed to identify memory lapses that occur very early in the onset of dementia.
It produces its results instantly, and can be administered by practice nurses or other staff to free up doctors’ time.
A patient’s score, which takes into account their age, sex and education, determines whether they are referred on to a specialist memory clinic for further diagnosis and treatment.
Research shows that despite its brevity, the test is highly accurate at spotting cases and produces very few false alarms.
GPs who pay 250 pounds for a year’s subscription will be able to use the test on patients.
NHS Walsall is piloting the software and hopes to have it in all its GPs’ surgeries soon.