Canadian researchers have developed a simple tool to track cognitive performance, so doctors can identify those at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
QuoCo consists of charts that show what a healthy person’s cognitive performance ought to be. It takes into account the person’s age, education and other factors. QuoCo stands for cognitive quotient.
Researchers published an article about the tool in CMAJ, the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The title is “Validation and diagnostic accuracy of predictive curves for age-associated longitudinal cognitive decline in older adults.”
“Similar to growth charts used in pediatrics, the QuoCo cognitive charts allow physicians to plot cognitive performance of any patient based on age, education and score on the Mini-Mental State Examination, and track cognitive change over time,” Robert Laforce Jr., a professor at the University of Laval in Quebec City, said in a press release. “This would allow physicians to intervene and potentially treat an older adult who fell off the curve.”
An interdisciplinary team of researchers from several Canadian institutions, including the University of Laval and the CHU of Quebec at the University of Laval Research Center, took part in the chart-creation effort.
There are no cures for Alzheimer’s or other dementias. But therapies are being developed to treat their systems. And doctors are aware that changes in diet and exercise can delay the onset of the diseases.
The Canadian researchers hope healthcare professionals use QuoCo to keep track of patients’ cognitive decline before irreversible damage occurs.
“Dementing illnesses have reached pandemic levels,” the team wrote. “Early detection of cognitive impairment remains our best approach to disease management before irreversible brain damage occurs. Family physicians are in a key position to contribute to this approach; however, they are ill-equipped.”
Dr. Andrew Costa of McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, wrote in a CMAJ commentary that “the widespread benefits derived from cognitive charts for any screening examination rests on the assumption that at-risk patients are being screened systematically over time and that cognitive test results are communicated, or can be readily referenced by, physicians.”
The problem, he said, is that “we seem to be some distance away from that reality.”
Costa noted, however, that any tool’s success rests on training healthcare professionals to use it and for them to follow guidelines on its use.