Study finds older adults should be tested annually for cognitive deficits

The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) is recommending the use of annual cognitive screening tests among people aged 65 and over. The screenings tests, researchers say, could provide physicians with the ability to conduct more thorough, quality assessments for thinking and memory deficits associated with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). The results were published in Neurology.

MCI is characterized by cognitive deficits not severe enough to impair daily functioning, primarily affecting older adults.

“The American Academy of Neurology is recommending the measurement of annual cognitive screenings for everyone age 65 and older because age itself is a significant risk factor for cognitive decline and mild cognitive impairment is increasingly prevalent with older age,” said Norman Foster, co-author of the study at the University of Utah.

“The measure complements past American Academy of Neurology quality measures released for Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and stroke, and allows for a doctor to meet the measure with a recommended periodic three-minute cognitive test.”

According to researchers, annual assessments can identify cognitive impairments early, which may be reversible and treated before it develops into a more severe form of dementia.

“Annual assessments will not only help identify mild cognitive impairment early, it will also help physicians more closely monitor possible worsening of the condition,” said Foster.

“Since thinking skills are the most sensitive indicator of brain function and they can be tested cost-effectively, this creates an enormous opportunity to improve neurologic care.”