The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) have added a new tool to their website in the form of an Online Screening Test that can help determine whether or not a visit to your doctor may be beneficial to you. This test only takes a few minutes to complete.
To begin the test, a prompt on the screen will provide you with instructions on how to correctly complete the test. The test itself is simple, presenting you with a series of images. When an exact repeat image appears on the screen, the spacebar is pressed on the keyboard. It is important to respond quickly because your reaction time is taken into account. When the test is completed you will be shown your results. These results tell you your percent correct, your mean reaction time, and a short test analysis. The test analysis section provides a range of how you performed on the test in terms of above average, average, or below average for your age group. If your score is interpreted as below average, it may suggest that you retake the test after reviewing the instructions. If your score does not improve the next time you take the test, a clinical evaluation may be a good idea.
How is this screening test helpful?
Executive dysfunction and impaired working memory are two early indicators of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Alzheimer’s disease can begin causing executive dysfunction before any signs of memory loss begin to emerge.
Assessments, such as the AFA’s Online Memory Screen, that are targeted towards working memory, attention, and executive functioning help with the early detection of AD symptoms. As we have discussed in past blog postings, it is crucial to begin monitoring and addressing AD symptoms at the earliest sign possible in the hope of preventing progression to more severe AD symptoms for as long as possible.
Working memory is the brain’s ability to hold information in our minds for a brief time and work with it. A good example of this is if you try to prepare a Thanksgiving meal. There are many components to keep track of all at the same time, and you will need to recall the steps of the recipe that you have already completed. This online screening test is similar because it is asking you to assess images and hold them in your working memory, while also continuing to look at more images and sort through them.
What is encoding?
Encoding is when you initially learn information and is the first step in creating a new memory. This new information is then maintained over time, stored throughout the brain, and is available to be retrieved as it’s needed. Encoding is selective, as we are exposed to many stimuli throughout any given day of our lives and it is impossible to remember all of it. As more symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease begin to appear, the hippocampus starts to shrink and the brain’s ability to encode new information and form new memories becomes compromised. The hippocampus is also important for the retrieval of old memories.
It is important to remember that screening tests are not meant to diagnose AD or other conditions, but are to help with earlier diagnosis so that preventative and protective measures can be taken as early as possible.
Here is the link to access the online memory screen: AFA Online Memory Screen
*If you have any questions regarding your score on the Online Memory Screen, the AFA has a staffed National Toll Free Helpline available for you to call at 866-232-8484. The line is open from 9AM-9PM ET Mon-Fri, and 9AM-1PM ET Sat-Sun.