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The Best Memory Tests: Mini-Mental and Beyond (Alzheimer’s Action Plan)

Posted Jun 27 2009 12:00am

(Editor’s Note: I recently came across an excellent book and resource, The Alzheimer’s Alzheimer's Disease Action PlanAction Plan: The Experts’ Guide to the Best Diagnosis and Treatment for Memory Problems, recently released in paperback. Dr. Murali Doraiswamy, one of the authors and leading Alzheimer’s expert, kindly helped us create a 2-part article series to share with SharpBrains readers advice on a very important question, “How can we help the public at large to distinguish Alzheimer’s Disease from normal aging — so that an interest in early identification doesn’t translate into unneeded worries?” What follows is an excerpt from the book, pages 72-78, discussing the Pros and Cons of the most common assessments).

While no single test (other than a brain biopsy, which is a very invasive and risky procedure) can conclusively prove that a person has Alzheimer’s, many tests can give us a good idea. A list of all the tests that help us assess memory and thinking problems appears at the end of this chapter. Meanwhile, let’s take a good look at the whys and hows of a thorough memory assessment.


To understand why getting tested (and retested as symptoms change and the disease progresses) is important, check out the experience of Katherine, who went to the doctor complaining of a memory slowdown. She took five of the most important neuropsychological tests, which assess brain function without actually physically looking at the brain. Then she underwent brain scans, a cardiovascular workup, and blood tests to see what else was going on that might be undermining her mental function.

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