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Alzheimer's Screening Test At Home

Clock test for Alzheimer's

Someday soon, you may be able to take a simple test on your computer at home to screen yourself or a loved one for Alzheimer's disease. Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology have created the ClockMe System, which can make Alzheimer's screening at home easy, non-threatening, and convenient.

Alzheimer's test can be done around the clock

As a screening tool for Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia, the clock drawing test has proved thus far to be helpful in helping clinicians identify an individual's cognitive ability. Traditionally the test is administered and interpreted by a physician, social worker, or psychologist.

The current method of administering the clock drawing test is to give the individual a pencil and a piece of paper that has a circle drawn on it. The patient is asked to put the numbers on the clock and indicate a specific time, which is typically 10 minutes after 11. Some professionals choose to hand individuals a blank piece of paper and ask them to draw a clock with the time 10 minutes after 11.

A professional then scores the test, and although there are more than a dozen different scoring methods, a recent study found that the easiest scoring approach was just as accurate as the more difficult ones in screening for dementia. The simplest approach is also recommended by the Alzheimer's Association: 1 point for completing the clock and time correctly (absence of dementia) and 0 points for not (further evaluation needed).

With the ClockMe System, individuals use a stylus and a computer or tablet at home and are given a specific amount of time to complete a clock with the hour and minute hands indicating 10 minutes after 11. The clock is then emailed to a clinician, who uses a software program called ClockAnalyzer Application to score the clock.

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ClockAnalyzer Application considers 13 characteristics of the drawing, including how and where the numbers are placed, whether there are extra or missing numbers, and accuracy of the time. The software also can determine how long it took for the individual to do the test, the time between each stroke, and even replay the entire drawing experience in real-time, which lets clinicians see any abnormal behaviors.

According to the study's leader, Ellen Yi-Luen Do, a professor at Georgia Tech's Colleges of Computing and Architecture, the unique features of the ClockMe System allow clinicians to "quickly analyze the test results and gain valuable insight into the patient's thought processes." It also gives clinicians an easily accessible electronic record of a patient's cognitive abilities over time for comparison.

For now, the ClockMe System is being tested at the Emory Alzheimer's Disease Research Center in Atlanta, but Do and her team hope to commercialize the test in the future. Do noted that in addition to being accurate and convenient, the ClockMe system could save healthcare costs by eliminating clinic visits and saving on medical expenses.

The clock drawing test has long been a quick, easily administered, and accurate screening tool for early signs of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. It can provide clinicians a significant amount of information about a person's general cognitive abilities, memory, ability to process information, and even hints about any areas of damage. In the near future, this Alzheimer's test may be available for use at home.

Georgia Institute of Technology
Korner EA et al. Simple scoring of the Clock-Drawing test for dementia screening. Danish Medical Journal 2012 Jan; 59(1): A4365

Image: Author