Associative Memory Test Aids Prediction of Dementia Risk

Findings based on combo of the Visual Association Test with the Mini-Mental State Examination

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TUESDAY, May 29, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- Among older adults with a minor decline on a screening test for cognitive ability, an additional three-minute test of associative memory can improve identification of patients at increased risk of developing dementia over the next several years, according to a study published in the May/June issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

Susan Jongstra, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Amsterdam, and colleagues evaluated whether the Visual Association Test (VAT) in conjunction with the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) improves the predictive value for development of dementia among 2,690 primary care patients (aged 70 to 78 years) over the next four to six years.

The researchers found that patients having a decline of two points or more in total MMSE score over two years had an odds ratio of 3.55 for developing dementia. When that same decline in MMSE score was considered with an imperfect VAT score, the odds ratio increased to 9.55 for developing dementia. For a one-point decline in MMSE score, the odds of dementia increased only when the VAT score was imperfect. A two- or three-point decline in MMSE score and a perfect VAT score did not relate to a change in dementia risk compared to the average risk of the cohort as a whole.

"Administering the VAT in patients with a small decline on the MMSE over a two-year period has substantial incremental value for identifying those at elevated risk for developing dementia," the authors write. "This simple test may help distinguish older adults who need further cognitive examination from those in whom a watchful waiting policy is justified."

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