New York startup trots out video game-like screening device for Alzheimer's

Cerebral Assessment Systems' Cognivue screening device--Courtesy of Cerebral Assessment Systems

As scientists zero in on quick, inexpensive ways to screen for Alzheimer's, a New York startup is developing a video game-like tool for catching early signs of the disease.

Cerebral Assessment Systems is hard at work on Cognivue, a cognitive assessment tool that runs through a computer to pinpoint indicators of Alzheimer's and dementia. As part of the system, patients sit in front of a video screen that shows a series of images such as a group of dots that move around and fluctuate in clarity. Individuals then try to follow the dots with a wedge-shaped cursor on a mouse. As the dots move around, the task becomes more difficult--especially for patients in early stages of dementia, The Washington Post reports.

The 10-minute screening test has already caught the eye of the FDA, which granted the Pittsford, NY-based company de novo marketing approval for its product in June. Amid a growing U.S. aging population, there is an increased need for tools that can rapidly screen for Alzheimer's or dementia at lower costs. And Cerebral's Cognivue fits the bill, CEO Charles Duffy told the Post.

To gain FDA approval, Cerebral cited data from a study with 401 people from 13 older adult communities. The subjects were broken up into three groups based on their cognitive abilities: normal, mild cognitive impairment and impaired. Scientists then compared their performance on the Cognivue device to their scores on an existing cognitive assessment test, finding that Cerebral's test could adequately screen for early flags of Alzheimer's or dementia.

The device holds promise in more effectively screening patients, according to some docs. Traditionally, individuals undergo a series of neuropsychiatric tests that often require thousands of dollars or hours of screening to find warning signs for Alzheimer's. And existing tests such as the Mini-Mental State Exam only look at patients' cognitive abilities on a broad scale, potentially missing borderline problems, Linda Rice, a Rochester, NY-based primary care doc, told the Post. Rice has used Cognivue in her clinic for about a year and is convinced of its worth, she said.

But the device still has a ways to go before it's used as a standalone test, the Post article notes. Cognivue is only approved for use by medical professionals as part of a broader assessment of cognitive function and its effectiveness in individuals with less than 12 years of education remains to be seen.

- read the Washington Post article