Early Alzheimer’s Detection Using Computerized Cognitive Screening

Ioannis Tarnanas M.Sc Senior Researcher Gerontechnology and Rehabilitation Research Group, ARTORG Centre for Biomedical Engineering, University of Bern, 3010 Bern, SwitzerlandMedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Ioannis Tarnanas M.Sc
Senior Researcher
Gerontechnology and Rehabilitation Research Group,
ARTORG Centre for Biomedical Engineering,
University of Bern, 3010 Bern, Switzerland

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the study?

Answer: We examined 75 healthy older people and 134 patients with mild cognitive impairment. Our aim was to collect neuropsychological, neurophysiological, neuroimaging and behavioural data by means of a virtual reality serious game, in order to model the profile of the patients who will progress to dementia within the next 2-4 years. We found that the prediction based on the performance at the virtual reality based computerized assessment instrument is comparable to that of more established and widely accepted biomarkers, such as ERP and MRI. This can be explained by the cognitive fidelity and richness of behavioural data collected with virtual reality based measures, which directly reflect neurocognitive processes affected at a very early stage.
MedicalResearch.com: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Answer: Our findings were not expected because the research investigating the usefulness of biomarkers, such as ERP and MRI for the prediction of dementia is ongoing for a couple of decades, whereas research in the field of virtual reality based serious games for the early detection of dementia is quite recent.  Previous studies were using virtual reality environments in order to evaluate its predictive value between healthy older people and Alzheimer’s Disease but not within patients with mild cognitive impairment.

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Answer: There is a growing interest in the use of computerized behavioural data screening  technologies, such as digital apps and serious games as an early screening a valid and reliable indicator of cognitive decline in elderly persons. If virtual reality based computerized assessments are to be widely recognized as an early screening tool for early dementia, there need to be more longitudinal clinical trials and correlations with more biomarkers, such as cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). This will enable clinicians to better clinically validate our cut-off scores.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Answer: This research was partially funded by the European project PharmaCog (Prediction of Cognitive Properties of New Drug Candidates for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Early Clinical Development). PharmaCog was started in 2010, and it is a partnership of 32 academic and industry actors from seven countries and one of the most ambitious European projects for tackling bottlenecks in Alzheimer’s disease research and drug discovery. We believe that serious gaming shows great promise as a novel computerized assessment of cognition and could assist Alzheimer’s disease research and drug discovery by creating early screening behavioural profiles for Alzheimer disease using low cost, internet delivered and non-invasive out-of-the box technologies.

Citation:

Can a novel computerized cognitive screening test provide additional information for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease?

Ioannis Tarnanas, Magda Tsolaki, Tobias Nef, René M. Müri, Urs P. Mosimann

Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association – 20 March 2014 (10.1016/j.jalz.2014.01.002)