The Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination (SAGE) may help physicians rein in rising Alzheimer’s disease rates and improve preventative treatment strategies by moving the screening process to the comfort of your own home.
Dr. Douglas Scharre, test developer and first author of an accompanying study, said in a press release that the 15-minute evaluation can spot a range of cognitive deficits in patient who are unable to identify them on their own. Despite its relative brevity, SAGE can yield a mental profile comparable to that of extensive testing. "What we found was that this SAGE self-administered test correlated very well with detailed cognitive testing," he said. "If we catch this cognitive change really early, then we can start potential treatments much earlier than without having this test."
The SAGE test, which is designed to be administered anywhere without the need for supervision, can assess six separate aspects of cognition: orientation, language, reasoning/computation, visuospatial comprehension, problem solving, and memorization. It is estimated that the take-home evaluation will catch four out of five cases of nascent cognitive decline. Ninety-five percent of test takers without cognitive issues will receive normal scores.
So far, the evaluation has been tested in several capacities. In one trial, the researchers recruited 1,047 test takers from 45 different community events. Twenty-eight percent of the participants exhibited some form of mild cognitive decline. "We can give them the test periodically and, the moment we notice any changes in their cognitive abilities, we can intervene much more rapidly," Scharre explained.
Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Population
Neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease currently affect millions of people worldwide. The conditions, which are characterized by a gradual loss of nerve functions, usually result in mental decline and an array of cognitive impairments. In turn, these symptoms often bring with them a number of lifestyle changes as well as an increased risk of injuries.
Earlier this month, scientists at the G8 dementia summit in London announced that the incident of Alzheimer’s is expected to triple by 2050. Rising life expectancy and better health care access, they said, will drive U.S. cases from five million to 15 million in less than four decades. Early detection of these cases may be crucial to avoid a devastating epidemic.
In addition, interventions like the SAGE test will also help physicians identify patients with mild cognitive impairments that otherwise fail to meet the criteria for Alzheimer’s disease. "Hopefully, this test will help change those situations," Scharre said. "We are finding better treatments, and we know that patients do much better if they start the treatments sooner than later."
The SAGE test is available through Ohio State University’s website. Here, you can download and complete the test in English, Spanish, and Italian. When you’re done, take the results to your primary care provider for further assessment.