U.S. – Researchers from the Rush University Medical Center have developed a novel method to monitor the brain health of patients to improve the early diagnosis and treatment of certain diseases including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

 This “cognitive clock,” which is the term that has been coined for this new screening technique, involves measuring an individual’s cognitive age, rather than their chronological age, to assess the patient’s risk of poor health outcomes.

Pathological factors bear more weight on development of neurological diseases than a person’s chronological age. However much, aging has been linked to disease development.

Over the past several decades, researchers have been unable to accurately assess brain health to more accurately predict the patient’s cognitive and other health outcomes since brain aging cannot be identified while the patient is still alive.

The cognitive clock is a tool to monitor the brain health of patients by assessing their cognitive performance. The tool subjects’ patients to a series of neurologic examinations, cognitive assessments, and medical history interviews.

This study and resultant findings are relevant to the times we are living in where cases of dementia and Alzheimer’s are reportedly on the rise. According to WHO, Worldwide, around 50 million people have dementia, with nearly 60% living in low- and middle-income countries.

Every year, there are nearly 10 million new cases. The estimated proportion of the general population aged 60 and over with dementia at a given time is between 5-8%. Proper diagnosis and treatment will go a long way in brain health promotion.

In their study, the researchers at Rush University found that an individual’s cognitive age, rather than their chronological age, was a better indicator of Alzheimer’s disease dementia, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and mortality. Furthermore, cognitive age was found to more strongly be associated with neurobiological indices of brain health including neuropathology and total brain mass.

One important finding of this study is the fact that chronological age is an inadequate prognostic indicator of cognitive impairment and other adverse health outcomes.

Another significant finding of the current study was that cognitive age is a better predictor for Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and death, as compared to chronological age.

Taken together, these findings indicate that a consistent evaluation of the cognitive age of patients could have an important role in the clinical setting to improve the early and accurate diagnosis of certain health conditions.