A study shows that a simple test he is able to predict the risk of developing cognitive decline years in advance in people who have not manifested thought problems or loss of memory. The research involved 969 people with an average age of 69 years who did not have cognitive alterations when the study began and who were followed for a period of up to 10 years.
“There is increasing evidence that some people without thinking and memory problems may have very subtle signs of early cognitive decline,” said study author Ellen Grober, from the 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 otherwise considered to have a normal cognition”. The results have been published in Neurologythe medical journal of the american academy of neurology.
Identify people at higher risk of cognitive decline
The test designed by these researchers consists of two phases. In the study phase, participants are shown four cards, each with pictures of four items, and are asked to identify the item corresponding to a particular category. For example, they would name “grapes” when asked to identify a “fruit.” For the testing phase, they are first asked to recall the items. This measures your ability to retrieve information. They are then given category keys for the items they have not remembered. This phase measures the memory storage.
“Detecting cognitive decline in its early stages could benefit those most at risk by consulting with their doctor and implementing interventions to promote healthy brain aging”
Participants were divided into five groups, or stages zero to four, depending on their test scores, as part of the system Stages of objective memory impairment (SOMI). Stage zero does not involve memory problems; Stages one and two reveal increasing difficulty in retrieving memories that may precede the dementia between five and eight years. These participants are still able to recall items when given clues. In the third and fourth stages, people cannot remember all the items even after receiving clues. These stages precede dementia by one to three years.
The results showed that 47% of the participants were in stage zero, 35% in stage one, 13% in stage two, and 5% in stages three and four combined. The researchers adjusted for other risk factors that could play a role such as age, gender, educational level, and the presence of the APOE4 gene, which has been linked to the odds of suffering from the Alzheimer disease, and found that, compared to people at SOMI stage zero, people at stages one and two were twice as likely to develop cognitive decline. People in stages three and four were three times more likely to develop cognitive decline.
The study authors also adjusted for Alzheimer’s biomarkers, such as the accumulation of amyloid beta plaques and tau tangles in the brain, and the SOMI system it went on to predict an increased risk of cognitive decline. They further estimated that at the end of 10 years about 72% of those in the third and fourth stages would have developed cognitive impairment, compared with about 57% of those in the second stage, 35% of of the first stage and 21% of those who were in stage zero. At the end of follow-up, 234 participants had developed cognitive impairment.
“Our results support the use of the SOMI system to identify people most likely to develop cognitive impairment,” Grober said. “Detecting cognitive decline in its early stages is beneficial for researchers investigating treatments. It could also benefit those most at risk by consulting with their doctor and implementing interventions to promote healthy brain aging.”