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Cognitive Testing for Early Dementia

Early Dementia or Mild Cognitive Impairment


As we age, we all undergo slowing of functions within the body. This can include walking speed, slowing down of urination and with constipation, but also with thinking and memory. Although some of these changes are normal and expected, some of these changes will impair regular day to day functioning. If this is the case, then we will use the term of early dementia or mild cognitive impairment in some cases.


In the early stages of dementia, a person’s symptoms will be noticeable and will affect performance of day-to-day activities. There may be issues with memory, speed of thinking, but also with language or behaviour.


What is dementia?

The word “dementia” describes a group of conditions, including memory loss and problems with thinking. Also, there can be difficulties with problem solving or language/communication. Sometimes, these can be accompanied by changes in mood or behaviour.


These changes start as small, but if someone has dementia, then they are severe enough to affect daily life and make you unable to function.


Dementia is due to a loss of nerve cells and connections between nerve cells in the brain. Dementia is a progressive condition, worsening over time. By the time that someone is recognized to have dementia, then will have had degeneration for many years within the brain.


What is early dementia?


Persons in early stages of dementia will be still functioning independently and should be able to do most functions, maybe with a little help or with compromised.


How does dementia affect the brain?


How dementia affects the brain depends upon which portions of the brain are affected. While some forms of dementia will cause problems with memory, others may slow speed of thought, limit language or change one’s behaviour. However, as dementia progresses, more and more of the brain will be damaged, leading to more and more functions being affected.

What does Alzheimer’s disease look like?


Alzheimer's disease can initially look like normal aging, with very mild changes in abilities or behaviour. The loss of memory of recent events is a common early problem. There may be difficulty with recalling things that happened recently, or with being able to learn new information. Objects may be misplaced around the house, conversations may be forgotten, events may not be recalled, words may be hard to find, or understanding conversations may be difficult.


What is Vascular dementia?


Vascular dementia occurs when there has been strokes or damage to the blood vessels deep in the brain. This could lead to weakness, loss of sensation, problems with coordination but also features of dementia such as with problems with thinking, organizing and even planning. Concentration on steps to perform may become difficult.


What is Dementia with Lewy bodies?


Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) is closely related to both Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. In the early stages, people may experience the symptoms common to these conditions and show tremor, slow movements, stiffness and walking problems. These patients can also have variable attention, poor planning and disturbed sleep, along with even visual hallucinations.


What is Frontotemporal dementia?


Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) leads to problems with language and behaviour. A patient may act out of character, act rudely, have trouble remembering words or speaking in fluent fashion.


What Is Mild Cognitive Impairment?


Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is of several types. The form most associated with memory loss is called an amnestic form of MCI. Compared to normal elderly, patients with amnestic MCI have more memory problems, but not as severe as patients with Alzheimer's disease. For example, MCI patients do not experience personality changes or a major loss of function as seen in Alzheimer's Disease.


Other features of MCI include losing things often, forgetting to tasks or appointments, word finding problems, and family and friends willl notice memory lapses. Often, patients with MCI worry about losing their What is mild cognitive impairment?


What causes MCI?


The cause of MCI is unknown. It may be an early stage of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), but not in all patients.


What happens with MCI?


Over time, more people with MCI than those without it go on to develop Alzheimer's. Disease. However, not all patients with MCI develop Alzheimer's Disease.


What factors can lead to MCI or early dementia having progression to dementia?

There are 7 risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and other causes of dementia that can possibly be reduced or adjusted to help prevent progression. These are:

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • High blood pressure

  • Midlife obesity

  • Smoking

  • Depression

  • Little or no stimulating mental activity

  • Little or no physical exercise

If you have MCI, we can look for these factors to try and prevent progression. Your doctor will explain what can be done to prevent these conditions from continuing and improve their status.


What other things help to prevent dementia?


Physical exercise helps enhance brain function, improves mood and general fitness. A balanced diet, sufficient sleep, and limited alcohol intake are also helpful.

Testing for Early Dementia or Mild Cognitive Impairment


A doctor can do thinking, memory, and language tests to test for MCI. Although there currently is no standard treatment for MCI, there are things a person can do to help slow down such changes and to help deal with changes in their thinking.

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Tests for Early Dementia and Mild Cognitive Impairment



     Visual digit span test forward

     Auditory digit span test forward

Executive Function

     Trail making test part A

     Trail making test part B

     Stroop test


     Visual Memory

     Auditory Verbal Learning Test

     Corsi block task

     Word List Recall

Reaction Time

     No-Go Visual Reaction Time

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