A Writing Test To Diagnose Alzheimers?

From the NY Times, comes the possibility that Alzheimer’s could be detected early via a simple writing test.

“For the Alzheimer’s study, the researchers looked at a group of 80 men and women in their 80s — half had Alzheimer’s and the others did not. But, seven and a half years earlier, all had been cognitively normal.

The men and women were participants in the Framingham Heart Study, a long-running federal research effort that requires regular physical and cognitive tests. As part of it, they took a writing test before any of them had developed Alzheimer’s that asks subjects to describe a drawing of a boy standing on an unsteady stool and reaching for a cookie jar on a high shelf while a woman, her back to him, is oblivious to an overflowing sink.”

The study in question wasn’t even designed with Alzheimer’s or other cognitive disorders in mind. But the Framingham Heart Study – in action since 1948 – has been a treasure trove of data in the past. That data shows that signs of cognitive disorders show up in these writing & drawing tests years – or even decades – before other symptoms emerge. An AI algorithm was able to predict, with 75% accuracy, who would or would not develop Alzheimer’s based just on those tests. Tests of that nature are incredibly easy to administer, and feeding them into that algorithm could revolutionize early diagnosis of the disease.

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