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New online cognitive self-assessment by Cogniciti (Baycrest): a thermometer for the mind?

thermometersBay­crest mem­o­ry experts launch ‘ther­mome­ter’ for the mind (Press release):

Accord­ing to the test’s cre­ators, the major­i­ty of peo­ple will score in the nor­mal, healthy range for their age – which will help reas­sure the “wor­ried well”. For the small per­cent­age (approx­i­mate­ly 2 — 3%) that scores below aver­age for Read the rest of this entry »

Alzheimer’s Early and Accurate Diagnosis: Normal Aging vs. Alzheimer’s Disease

(Edi­tor’s Note: I recent­ly came across an excel­lent book and resource, The Alzheimer’s Alzheimer's Disease Action PlanAction Plan: The Experts’ Guide to the Best Diag­no­sis and Treat­ment for Mem­o­ry Prob­lems, just released in paper­back. Dr. Murali Doraiswamy, one of the authors and lead­ing Alzheimer’s expert, kind­ly helped us cre­ate a 2‑part arti­cle series to share with Sharp­Brains read­ers advice on a very impor­tant ques­tion, “How can we help the pub­lic at large to dis­tin­guish Alzheimer’s Dis­ease from nor­mal aging — so that an inter­est in ear­ly iden­ti­fi­ca­tion does­n’t trans­late into unneed­ed wor­ries?” What fol­lows is an excerpt from the book, pages 3–8).

Jane, fifty-sev­en, man­aged a large sales force. She prid­ed her­self on being good at names, and intro­duc­tions were easy for her—until last spring when she referred to Bar­bara as Bet­ty at a meet­ing and had to cor­rect her­self. She start­ed notic­ing that her mem­o­ry wasn’t as depend­able as it once was—she had to real­ly try to remem­ber names and dates. Her moth­er had devel­oped Alzheimer’s in her late sev­en­ties, so Jane enter­tained a wide array of wor­ries: Is this just aging? Is it because of menopause? Is it ear­ly Alzheimer’s? Did her cowork­ers or fam­i­ly notice her slips? Should she ask them? Should she see a doc­tor, and if so, which doc­tor? Would she real­ly want to know if she was get­ting Alzheimer’s? Would she lose her job, health insur­ance, or friends if she did have Alzheimer’s?

As it turns out, Jane did not have Alzheimer’s. She con­sult­ed a doc­tor, who, in doc­s­peak, told her that the pas­sage of time (get­ting old­er) had tak­en a slight toll on her once-superquick mem­o­ry. She was slow­ing down a lit­tle, and if she relaxed, the name or date or oth­er bit of infor­ma­tion she need­ed would come to her soon enough. She was still good at her job and home life. She had sim­ply joined the ranks of the wor­ried well.

Nor­mal brain aging, begin­ning as ear­ly as the for­ties in some peo­ple, may include:

  • Tak­ing longer to learn or remem­ber infor­ma­tion
  • Hav­ing dif­fi­cul­ty pay­ing atten­tion or con­cen­trat­ing in the midst of dis­trac­tions
  • For­get­ting such basics as an anniver­sary or the names of friends
  • Need­ing more reminders or mem­o­ry cues, such as promi­nent appoint­ment cal­en­dars, reminder notes, a phone with a well­stocked speed dial

Although they may need some assis­tance, old­er peo­ple with­out a men­tal dis­or­der retain their abil­i­ty to do their errands, han­dle mon­ey, find their way to famil­iar areas, and behave appro­pri­ate­ly.

How does this com­pare to a per­son with Alzheimer’s? When Alzheimer’s slows the brain’s machin­ery, peo­ple begin to lose their abil­i­ty to Read the rest of this entry »

Shall we question the brand new book of human troubles

With three years still left until pub­li­ca­tion, the fights over the new ver­sion of the psy­chi­atric diag­nos­tic man­u­al, the DSM‑V, are hot­ting up and The New York Times has a bookcon­cise arti­cle that cov­ers most of the main point of con­tention.

- “What you have in the end,  Mr. Short­er said, “is this process of sort­ing the deck of symp­toms into syn­dromes, and the out­come all depends on how the cards fall.

- Psy­chi­a­trists involved in prepar­ing the new man­u­al con­tend that it is too ear­ly to say for sure which cards will be added and which dropped.

Although I doubt the DSM com­mit­tee are using that exact metaphor, it cer­tain­ly illus­trates the point that the process requires a cer­tain degree of val­ue-judge­ment.

It’s inter­est­ing, how­ev­er, that the pub­lic debate is cur­rent­ly focused on whether cer­tain diag­noses should be includ­ed or not, rather than whether diag­no­sis itself is use­ful for psy­chi­a­try.

We’ve had psy­cho­met­rics for a good 100 years that allow us to mea­sure dimen­sions of human expe­ri­ence and per­for­mance with a much greater degree of accu­ra­cy than Read the rest of this entry »

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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