For decades, the mini-mental state examination has been the gold standard of "quick exams" given by mental health professionls. This test is one that is generally part of an examination given when diagnosing dementia. While the test alone isn't conclusive, it's been considered a very good tool.
Enter a new test called "Test Your Memory" or TYM Like the mini-mental, this test evaluates cognitive ability and can be self-administered. Researchers say it is faster and more accurate than current methods, but like the mini-mental, it results should be evaluated by a professional.
While TYM isn't considered a diagnostic tool for Alzheimer's (yet), according to researchers at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, England, "...it shows great promise." A good score on the test means it's very likely the person does not have Alzheimer's disease. A low score could possibly mean Alzheimer's disease is present, but could also mean there are other problems, such as anxiety, involved.
People taking the test are asked to complete 10 tasks including calculations, verbal fluency and recall. During the study, it took people with no history of cognitive problems five minutes to complete the test, with a possible score of 50 points.
According to lead researcher Dr. Jeremy Brown, "The TYM identified 93 percent of those with Alzheimer's, whereas the mini-mental state examination identified only 52 percent of the people with Alzheimer's -- suggesting that the TYM test is more sensitive in detecting mild Alzheimer's disease."
No one test can diagnose Alzheimer's disease. A clinician will order many tests. He'll likely include a PET scan, a psychological exam, take a family history, interview the family on changes in the person being diagnosed and use other options available before making a final diagnosis. However this new test looks as though it may become another tool in the kit.
One thing you don't want to forget. As with the mini-mental, you would be able to test yourself. However, if you score yourself, you may be either in for unnecessary worry or you may live in denial. This is a tool that should be used in conjunction with other tools, and it should be interpreted by a professional who is trained in interpreting these and other test results.
It's always good news when something non-invasive and relatively inexpensive can be helpful in determining our health. TYM seems as though this may be one of those advances.
The report is published in the June 9 online edition of BMJ and written about on AJC.com.
Published On: June 22, 2009