Early screening for disabling neurological illnesses such as Alzheimer’s offers countless benefits to the booming elderly population.
The Georgia Tech and Emory device, called DETECT, gives individuals a roughly ten-minute test designed to gauge reaction time and memory – functions that, when impaired, are associated with the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The test is a specially modified, shortened version of the traditional pen and paper test and could be given repeatedly by doctors to evaluate any changes in cognitive functions.
“We really envision this to be part of the normal preventative care a patient receives from a general practitioner,” said Michelle LaPlaca, Ph.D., one of the creators of the device and an associate professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University. “It would be part of a regular preventative medicine exam much like a PSA test or EKG (electrocardiogram), serving as a cognitive impairment vital sign of sorts.”
The portable test runs patients through a battery of visual and auditory stimuli such as pictures and words that assess cognitive abilities relative to age, gauging reaction time and memory capabilities. Its software can track cognitive capabilities – and decline – year to year during annual appointments. And because the device blocks outside sound and light from the patient’s environment, it can be administered in virtually any setting, providing more consistent results.
Preliminary analysis of the first 100 patients of a 400-person clinical study being conducted at Emory’s Wesley Woods Center has shown that the 10-minute DETECT test has similar accuracy to the 90-minute “Gold Standard” pen and paper test.