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September 2017

Computerized Tests to Measure Memory

Cognitive Tests: Traditional vs. Computerized

Doctors often use tests of memory and thinking as part of a diagnostic evaluation for neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease. However, because brain tests (or cognitive tests) are traditionally administered by trained professionals in a clinic, there can be delays in testing due to the time limitations of scheduling appointments. Computerized cognitive tests, that a person can take on their own, have the potential to eliminate the need for patients to come into a clinic and therefore provide doctors and researchers with information about a person’s brain health much faster. Computerized cognitive tests can be conveniently taken at home, enabling a much larger group of people to more efficiently access and complete these tests.

One of the goals of the Brain Health Registry is to determine whether information about a person’s thinking and memory can be accurately collected from self-administered computerized tests. This means that we want to see whether self-administered, computerized cognitive tests can provide useful information to doctors and researchers, in the same way that clinician-administered cognitive tests do.

Do Computerized Test Really Measure Thinking & Memory?

To investigate this important question, Brain Health Registry scientist Scott Mackin, Ph.D, looked at data from a sub-study where 200 Brain Health Registry participants completed a group of computerized brain tests called ReVeRe, an app developed by our industry collaborator, Janssen Pharmaceuticals. The ReVeRe test battery is composed of six sections that assess different cognitive domains including memory, working memory (or short-term memory), information processing speed, attention, motor (or movement) speed, and executive function (or ability to coordinate and control cognitive behavior). ReVeRe is unique in that several of the tests use a speech recognition software so that a computer can score the test based on what a participant says. Each participant was asked to take ReVeRe in clinic, then several times at home. Participants completed the test a total of four times, over 180 days. Participants were also asked to complete paper versions of cognitive tests that are commonly used by clinicians in memory evaluation.

Shot of a senior man using his digital tablet while relaxing at home

Results & Conclusions

Dr. Mackin looked at how the participants performed on the ReVeRe cognitive test to evaluate its reliability, or its ability to measure memory and thinking with consistency and precision. Results showed that many computerized cognitive tests from the ReVeRe battery were reliable over time because participants tended to perform the same way each time they took the test. What’s more, the results indicated that parts of the ReVeRe battery that used speech recognition software were particularly reliable.

The validity of the ReVeRe cognitive test battery was also evaluated to determine whether it can in fact measure memory and thinking like it’s supposed to. To do this, Dr. Mackin compared participants’ performance on the computerized self-administered ReVeRe tests to participants’ performance on the traditional clinician-administered tests. The results from this comparison demonstrate that the two types of testing provided similar results, which offers additional evidence about the potential benefits of using self-administered cognitive tests.

Computerized Cognitive Tests Have Great Potential in Accelerating Brain Health Research

The findings from this study demonstrate initial support for using computerized cognitive tests, like ReVeRe, to gather information about a person’s cognition.  “The validation of computerized cognitive tests can lead to a more efficient and scalable way to enable widespread testing, such as in homes, primary care, and clinical trial settings,” said Dr. Mackin. “This, in turn, may improve the early detection of neurodegeneration biomarkers in Alzheimer’s patients.” Computerized cognitive tests have the potential to significantly change how doctors and researchers identify individuals that may be in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease, a group that may be key in the discovery of breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s clinical research.

We are excited to share these initial results with you and look forward to learning even more from the valuable data contributed by committed Brain Health Registry participants, like you! We couldn’t do this without your help, so THANK YOU!