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Ohio State makes early Alzheimer’s detection breakthrough

Douglas Scharre, professor of clinical neurology and psychiatry. Credit: Courtesy of the Wexner Medical Center

A free, at-home cognitive test developed by Ohio State researchers is making groundbreaking strides as one of the only self-administered tests of its kind.

The SAGE Test, aimed at early Alzheimer’s and dementia detection, was developed by Dr. Douglas Scharre, a professor of clinical neurology and psychiatry, and his team of researchers at Ohio State. SAGE stands for Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination. The test made its debut about five years ago and recently surpassed two million downloads worldwide.

“There are hundreds of tests out there to measure cognitive function,” Scharre said. “The reason this has caught on and has been very successful is because of its self-administration abilities.”

The SAGE Test is a valuable resource in that it is not only free, but can also be printed at home and scored by the patient themselves. Because of its accessibility, Scharre said this allows for an easier and potentially earlier detection of Alzheimer’s.

“This is a very good way to pick up cognitive disorders maybe in year one instead of year four,” Scharre said.

He also said patients can take their completed test to their primary care doctor to be evaluated.

The advantage of having the test evaluated by a doctor, Scharre said, is that the doctor can monitor any changes in results as the patients’ care continues. The SAGE Test can identify onset of memory issues, while also mapping any decline.

Maria Kataki, assistant professor of neurology at Ohio State and a doctor at the Wexner Medical Center, said she uses the SAGE Test regularly with her patients.

Kataki said she will have her patients take the test during their first appointment as well as periodically in future appointments to measure any decline.

“Any change in the score is an indication of true changes in cognitive and functional ability of the patient,” Kataki said, “I’ve found that [the SAGE Test] is a very helpful cognitive instrument.”

The SAGE Test helps in Alzheimer’s and dementia detection, but it also can help monitor cognitive issues in general. Scharre said many doctors administer the SAGE Test to patients who will undergo any cognitive-threatening procedures.

Doctors will sometimes administer the test before and after patients undergo chemotherapy and certain surgeries, Scharre said. He said this can clue doctors in to whether a patient lost any cognitive ability during treatment.

The test can also serve as a way to promote peace of mind. According to Scharre, only 3 percent of the population suffer from dementia, but it is still a common fear. He said this test allows patients to visibly see how they measure cognitively and help put to rest any fears they may have about losing their memory.

Scharre recommends people start taking the test at the age of 65, but anybody of any age can take it to measure their cognitive function at any time. The SAGE Test can be downloaded and printed for free from the Wexner Medical Center’s website.

“It’s a useful tool and the reason is because its practical,” Scharre said. “The SAGE Test is downloaded hundreds of times every month and is currently being translated into many different languages to be used in clinics around the world.”

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